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James F. Cahoon, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has received a 2014 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, awarded to highly creative researchers early in in their careers. The award from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is for $875,000 over five years.

UNC-Chapel Hill has had five Packard Fellows in the past. The 2014 announcement marks the third year in a row that a UNC-Chapel Hill faculty has won the prestigious award, underscoring Carolina’s position as a premiere research institution that attracts the countries brightest and most innovative young scientists and engineers.

“Jim Cahoon is a talented and innovative scientist and an excellent teacher and colleague,” said Valerie Ashby, professor and chair of the chemistry department in the College of Arts and Sciences. “His research on tunable semiconductor nanomaterials is deserving of this level of recognition, and the department is thrilled for him.”

The Packard Fellowships program invests in future leaders who have the freedom to take risks, explore new frontiers in their fields of study and follow uncharted paths that can lead to groundbreaking discoveries. It is among the nation’s largest nongovernmental fellowships.

Cahoon focuses his research on novel semiconductor nanomaterials. Semiconductors are used in a vast array of modern technologies, from solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity to microprocessors that drive computers. His work —using a multidisciplinary approach involving chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering — is expected to yield a new strategy for the design of electronics, optical circuits, solar energy devices and thermoelectric systems.

Recipients have gone on to receive awards such as the Nobel Prize in Physics, MacArthur Fellowships, and elections to the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.

Cahoon received bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and philosophy from the College of William and Mary, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. He did post-doctoral work at Harvard University before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011.

Read more about the new Packard fellows online.

Published October 17, 2014