Brandi Cossairt named 2015 Packard Fellow

Brandi CossairtThe David and Lucile Packard Foundation has named the University of Washington’s Brandi Cossairt as one of 18 Packard Fellows for 2015. The Packard Foundation chooses scientists in the early stages of their careers and supports the more innovative avenues of investigation that traditional funding may not give them the freedom to explore.

“It is really an honor — humbling and amazing,” said Cossairt, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Chemistry. The fellowship includes a five-year research grant of $875,000.

Cossairt and the members of her lab — at last count nine graduate students, one postdoctoral fellow and several undergraduates — pursue research to synthesize and manufacture new molecules for applications in green technology such as solar energy and fuel production.

“I like to group chemists into two categories — makers and measurers,” said Cossairt. “We’re definitely makers.”

Cossairt works on crystal formation at the “nanoscale,” a window of size between 1 and 100 nanometers. For reference, 1 nanometer is 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. This range of exploration is intermediate between the scale of individual molecules or atoms and larger — but still microscopic — realm of bacteria or crystalline aggregates. It is also a scale with unique properties, especially for the nanocrystals Cossairt studies.

“The properties of materials at this scale just tend to be really different than if they were smaller or larger,” said Cossairt. “In the nanoscale, when you change the size of these nanocrystals, their electronic structure changes. You can alter what color of light they absorb and what color they emit, for example.”

Light emitted from nanocrystals

Light emitted from nanocrystals synthesized in the Cossairt lab for display applications.  Courtesy of the Cossairt group.

Many of Cossairt’s research projects explore the light-interacting properties of nanocrystals. One goal is to synthesize new light-emitters for energy-efficient lighting and electronic displays. Other projects aim to produce new, efficient light-absorbing compounds for solar cells.

Cossairt’s research also explores new methods for fuel production. Just as she hopes semiconductor nanocrystals could harvest light for solar energy, she is looking at how nanocrystals could harvest light directly for fuel formation, such as splitting water molecules to produce hydrogen. In a separate project, Cossairt and her team are exploring how nanocrystals could absorb a pollutant, such as carbon dioxide gas from industrial output, and convert it into octane, a useful hydrocarbon fuel.

In addition to these green applications for nanocrystals, Cossairt and her laboratory study new ways to manufacture nanocrystals quickly and efficiently.

“The tools to work at this scale are developing, and if you don’t make your crystals the same size they won’t all have the same properties,” said Cossairt. “What we really try to do is to make these nanomaterials cheaply and uniformly.”

Indium phosphide nanocrystal

A single crystal X-ray diffraction structure — the first of its kind — of an indium phosphide nanocrystal synthesized in the Cossairt lab. Courtesy of the Cossairt group.

Part of Cossairt’s motivation in these projects is a sense of social responsibility for the challenges of the 21st century.

“As a scientist, I ultimately want to do things that help people,” she said. “We need green energy, and lots of it, and my background in materials science and chemistry makes this application the right space for my training.”

Cossairt earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She began to study nanocrystal properties as a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University before joining the UW faculty in 2012. Cossairt is the third Packard Fellow to come from the UW Department of Chemistry and the ninth overall for the university, seven of whom are still at the UW.

Every year, about 50 universities are invited to nominate two faculty members who are in the first three years of their careers for consideration as a fellow. A 12-member scientific panel recommends fellows each year for final selection by the Packard Foundation Board of Trustees, in fields from biology to engineering.

“The previous Packard Fellows have been astounding, so I feel like I’m in great company,” said Cossairt.


For more information, contact Cossairt at 206-543-4643 or

See the original post of this story by James Urton, News and Information, at UW Today here.

Brandi Cossairt awarded 2015 Sloan Research Fellowship

Cossairt_HeadShot_sqAssistant Professor Brandi Cossairt has been awarded a 2015 Sloan Research Fellowship, awarded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The fellowships are “given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders.”

Cossairt’s research is in the area of synthetic inorganic chemistry, with a focus on building up molecules and materials for targeted applications in light harvesting and catalysis.

The fellowships include a grant of $50,000 over a two-year period. Once chosen, Sloan Research Fellows are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are of most interest to them, and they are permitted to employ Fellowship funds in a wide variety of ways to further their research aims.

“We are very proud of these young scientists who have received these very meaningful and prestigious early career fellowships,” said UW Provost and Executive Vice President Ana Mari Cauce. “The awards will enhance the innovative work they are doing in their respective disciplines. The number of recipients this year is also a tribute to the talent our departments have brought to the UW in recent years — these young faculty members are at the top of their fields at this point in their careers and as such the future of the University looks very bright.”

This year’s 126 fellows come from 57 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada and cover many different fields in the sciences, including oceanography, computer science, astronomy, neuroscience, economics and chemistry. Since the program began in 1955, 43 fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective fields, along with many other prestigious awards.

Candidates are nominated by their fellow scientists, and winning fellows are selected by an independent panel of senior scholars on the basis of a candidate’s independent research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field.

Please visit the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation website for more information about the Sloan Research Fellowship and a full list of recipients.

For more information about Professor Cossairt and her research, please visit her faculty page and research group website.

Brandi Cossairt wins Seattle AWIS 2015 Award for Early Career Achievement

Cossairt_HeadShot_sqAssistant Professor Brandi Cossairt has been awarded the 2015 Award for Early Career Achievement from the Seattle chapter of the Association for Women in Science. The award, which recognizes a woman who has led her own research lab or program for less than six years in an academic, non-profit or industry setting who shows exceptional potential for leadership and innovation in her field, will be presented at the AWIS Seattle Awards Dinner in June 2015.

To learn more about Professor Cossairt and her research, please visit her faculty page and research group website.

Brandi Cossairt to join faculty

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Brandi Cossairt to the Department of Chemistry. Dr. Cossairt did her undergraduate work at Caltech, performing research with Professors Jesse L. Beauchamp and Jonas C. Peters. She received her Ph.D. from MIT, where she investigated the niobium-mediated synthesis of phosphorus-rich molecules under the direction of Professor Christopher C. Cummins. She is currently an NIH postdoctoral fellow with Assistant Professor Jonathan Owen at Columbia University, where she has developed new methods to synthesize ultrasmall (sub-2 nm) metal chalcogenide (CdSe, CdS, PbSe, PbS) nanoparticles. She also participates as an active member of Columbia’s Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), “Redefining Photovoltaic Efficiency through Molecular Scale Control.”

Dr. Cossairt will begin her research program here in July. Her work will focus on new methods for the preparation of III-V semiconductor clusters and nanoparticles for solar energy applications, and the development of novel bifunctional catalyst systems incorporating both highly reducing early transition metal complexes and binary semiconducting clusters and nanoparticles.

For more information, please visit her faculty page or contact her directly via email at