January 27, 2020
Rising star: A UCF physicist lands a coveted federal ‘early career' grant


Michael Chini will study the potential for using short, intense laser bursts to form or break atomic bonds within a molecule.

Energy Updates in Florida

Rising star: A UCF physicist lands a coveted federal ‘early career' grant

Jason Garcia | 9/25/2018

If young scientists were ranked like young quarterbacks, Michael Chini would be a top prospect.

Chini, 33, earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Canada’s McGill University in 2007 and then a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Central Florida five years later. Now he’s an assistant professor in UCF’s physics department who has started down the tenure track.

Chini is an attophysicist, which means he studies electrons that are moving so fast they must be measured in attoseconds — one-billionth of one billionth of one second.

Two years ago, the U.S. Air Force awarded Chini a research grant worth more than $450,000 through its Young Investigator Program, which is designed to support early career scientists and engineers who show promise. This summer, he was one of 54 university researchers around the nation awarded U.S. Department of Energy grants through the agency’s Office of Science Early Career Research Program.

With the grant — $150,000 a year for the next five years — Chini will study the potential for using short, intense laser bursts to form or break atomic bonds within a molecule. The goal is to develop enough control over these ultra-fast reactions to be able to capture and harness that energy for other uses.

“The better we get at understanding something, and the better we can predict what will happen, then the better we can optimize the processes or we can control the outcomes,” says Chini.

This is the ninth year for the Department of Energy’s Early Career Research Program, which is designed to support researchers at a time when they are doing their most formative research. To be eligible, researchers must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant or associate professor at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at a DOE national laboratory and have earned a Ph.D. within the past 10 years. The research topics must fall into one of six categories: Advanced scientific computing research; biological and environmental research; basic energy sciences; fusion energy sciences; high energy physics; or nuclear physics.

Chini is one of three researchers from Florida identified through the Early Career Program this year. Assel Aitkaliyeva, an assistant professor in the University of Florida’s nuclear engineering program, and Rachel Yohay, an assistant professor in Florida State University’s physics department, also landed five-year, $750,000 grants.

Tags: Energy & Utilities

Digital Access

Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single digital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.


Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Dementia-friendly dining debuts in Florida
Dementia-friendly dining debuts in Florida

An Orlando-area Italian restaurant is taking on a unique new mission. The Meatball Stoppe says it is about to become the only dementia-friendly restaurant in Central Florida. 

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Should life insurance companies be allowed to deny policies or set premiums based on an individual's genetic test results?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Need more information
  • Indifferent/no opinion
  • Other

See Results

Florida Trend Media Company
490 1st Ave S
St Petersburg, FL 33701

© Copyright 2020 Trend Magazines Inc. All rights reserved.