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Chemistry professor secures prestigious grant

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Photo by: Antonio Reyes | Staff Photographer
Assistant professor of chemistry, Todd Hudnall, speaks Jan. 26 about his recent awarded grant from the National Science Foundation for future research with organic molecules.

As an emerging research institution, Texas State has joined the search for renewable energy resources.

Todd Hudnall, assistant chemistry professor, just received his second grant from the National Science Foundation. The Faculty Early Career Development Program award, which provides funding for five years, is a competitive grant attracting thousands of proposals each year.

Hudnall is conducting research to create molecular compounds, which may have the potential to facilitate cleaner and more efficient energy storage, particularly in light-emitting devices such as computers and cell phones.

“I like to think of myself as an architect within chemistry,” Hudnall said. “We like to make molecules.”

He is working under a three-year Individual Investigator Program grant from the NSF, awarded in 2014. Funding from the new grant will begin this February.

It is uncommon for a principal investigator to receive two active research grants from the NSF, Hudnall said.

William Brittain, chair of the chemistry department, said Texas State gains recognition as a research university when professors secure awards such as these.

“The CAREER grant is an honor,” Brittain said. “You have to show real promise. It’s not just about getting money. You have to show commitment to society and the community.”

Hudnall enjoys making molecules, but in order to receive funding, the compounds have to show promise in terms of what they can do. Hudnall said the research that gets funded is perhaps a high in the sky idea, something that could be transformative if it works.

“It’s the challenge of trying to make molecules that are unstable, and what I like about it is that we possibly have a chance to rewrite the textbook,” Hudnall said.

Hudnall received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Texas State. Although he had always been interested in science, Hudnall also liked to draw and originally began his studies as an architecture student.

At first, chemistry classes were a way to strengthen his GPA. As Hudnall took more, he realized chemistry was a better fit for him.

Chad Booth, associate chemistry professor, worked with Hudnall while the grant recipient was still a student at the university.

“He was one of those students, from a laboratory standpoint, that you always want and get only occasionally,” Booth said. “He would work six or seven days a week. He was always in lab, that’s where he wanted to be.”

Since Booth began working at Texas State in 2001, he said the university’s involvement in research has grown in terms of magnitude.

“The battery area is a huge area of research, with everybody moving towards electric cars, hybrids and things like this,” Booth said. “The big issue there is the type of battery in the vehicles.”

Brittain said original discovery research, such as the type Hudnall is doing, takes a lot of time and energy to complete.

“You do it because you hope you’re bettering yourself,” Brittain said. “The people who accept that role love it. Dr. Hudnall is a great example of how you prosper despite that burden.”