Catherine Clewett

by George Zamora

SOCORRO, N.M., May 6, 2004 — New Mexico Tech physics doctoral candidate Catherine Clewett recently was invited by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation to join a select delegation of top young researchers who will be attending the 54th Annual Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students on June 27-July 2 in Lindau, Germany.

Clewett, a graduate of the Albuquerque Academy, is the daughter of Gary Mendelsohn of Albuquerque and Mary Mendelsohn of New Hampshire.

The DOE and NSF selected this year’s participants from among a national pool of second-year graduate students whose research is funded in part by the federal agencies.

Clewett currently is conducting research on nuclear magnetic resonance and electron spin resonance characterization of carbon nanotubes, in collaboration with New Mexico Tech chemistry professor Tanja Pietrass, her dissertation research advisor.

“These are interesting materials for many reasons,” Clewett says, “but more importantly they have the potential to store a great deal of hydrogen.

“If they can store hydrogen safely and cheaply, it will be a big step forward for the ‘hydrogen economy,’” she explains.

Clewett completed her master’s thesis on a similar topic at Washington University in St. Louis, where she explored the possibility of storing hydrogen in metal hydrides.

“Before coming back to graduate school at New Mexico Tech, I taught middle and high school science for a year at a private school in Albuquerque — Albuquerque Country Day School — as well as a semester teaching electronics at the Albuquerque Academy,” Clewett relates.

In addition, Clewett worked as a scientist at New Mexico Resonance, a non-profit research corporation in Albuquerque, where she was encouraged to finish up her Ph.D. at New Mexico Tech.

“New Mexico Tech has been a fantastic school for me,” she says.

“I chose to go out of state to Grinnell College, a small liberal arts college, for my bachelor’s, and I did my master’s at Washington University,” Clewett says, “and Tech is like the best of both schools. You get the attention of the small school here; and we have an extremely high-caliber research program like you’d expect at large university.

“Tech also has the added advantages of being in the desert, near the mountains, and close to the world’s best chile,” she adds.

Continuing a tradition established in 1951, Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physics, or physiology and medicine convene each year in Lindau on a rotational basis by discipline to conduct informal talks and meetings with about 400 students and young researchers from around the world. This year’s international convention will focus on physics.

As a selected participant, Clewett will attend informal roundtable sessions and small-group discussions led by any one of the Nobel Laureates attending the six-day conference.