Science & Technology

Recent USU Grad Awarded Oppenheimer Fellowship at Los Alamos National Lab

Ivan Popov, who earned a doctoral degree in chemistry from USU in 2017, is the recipient of Los Alamos National Laboratory's prestigious J. Robert Oppenheimer Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Utah State University alum Ivan Popov (PhD’17, Chemistry) is the recipient of the J. Robert Oppenheimer Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship at Las Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Popov, who was named the USU College of Science’s 2017 Graduate Student (PhD) Researcher of the Year, was selected from a field of nearly 400 candidates from top universities worldwide.

“The Oppenheimer Fellowship is the most prestigious and competitive postdoctoral award at Los Alamos Lab,” says Alex Boldyrev, professor in USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Popov’s USU mentor. “Ivan is the first USU alum to receive this award, which is a very significant achievement.”

USU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry head Alvan Hengge says Popov is “a highly productive and brilliant scholar.”

“Ivan excelled under Professor Boldyrev’s excellent mentorship here at Utah State,” Hengge says. “We are proud to have him as an alum and look forward to seeing his career develop.”

A Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow at LANL, Popov performs accurate quantum mechanical calculations of electronic properties, chemical bonding interactions and spectroscopic signatures of actinide and transition metal-containing molecules.

“I’m currently involved in the computational design of state-of-the-art redox flow-cell batteries for the large-scale storage of electrical energy,” he says. “Such technology holds value for electricity grids.”

Popov says he works in close collaboration with experimentalists at LANL, predicting novel chemical compounds, analyzing the electrochemical properties of the predicted molecules and aiding in the interpretation of experimental results.

During his USU career, Popov published some 28 peer-reviewed papers. His total citation index reached 477 and his Hirsch Index was h=13; a record for USU doctoral students.

“I am very grateful to my advisor, Dr. Boldyrev, who helped me reach the level where I can compete with postdocs from top universities around the world,” he says.

A native of Sibay, Russia, Popov earned bachelor’s and master’s diplomas with honors in chemistry, with an emphasis in physical science, from People’s Friendship University of Russia, Moscow. He started doctoral studies at USU in 2011.

The Oppenheimer Fellowship, named for the famed Manhattan Project scientist and first director of LANL, recognizes outstanding scientific research and leadership ability. Recipients receive $100,000 per year for three years.

Related Links
“Up, Up and Away: USU Chemists say ‘Yes,’ Helium Can Form Compounds,” Utah State Today 
“A Wild, New Helium Compound Could Rewrite Chemistry Textbooks,” Gizmodo 
“USU Chemists Observe Molecular ‘Drum’ that Beats Coordination Record,” Utah State Today 
USU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry 
USU College of Science 

Contact: Alex Boldyrev, 435-797-1630,
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

USU alum Ivan Popov, right, with mentor Alex Boldyrev, professor in USU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Popov was named the College of Science’s 'Graduate Student PhD Researcher of the Year’ in 2017.


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