Margaret C. Etter Early Career Award

Julia V. Zaikina, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Iowa State University, is the 2021 recipient of the Margaret C. Etter Early Career Award. This award “recognize[s] outstanding achievement and exceptional potential in crystallographic research demonstrated by a scientist at an early stage of their independent career.”

Julia completed her formal education in 2008 with a joint Ph.D. degree in Inorganic Chemistry from Moscow State University, Russia, and in Solid State Chemistry at the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids, Dresden, Germany. She moved to a post-doctoral appointment at Florida State University where she studied magnetically active intermetallic compounds. From there she moved to the University of California-Davis where she was a postdoctoral associate and then a Research Scientist and Lecturer. Here she worked on calorimetric analysis of intermetallics and began her efforts toward novel synthetic strategies to prepare intermetallics and other metal-rich compounds. In 2017 she started her independent career at Iowa State University focusing on the development of new, energy-related materials.

Techniques and methods utilized in Julia’s group include the portfolio of x-ray, neutron, and electron elastic scattering methods, synchrotron x-ray and neutron powder and single crystal diffraction, Pair Distribution Function analysis, structure determination from powder diffraction data and scanning transmission electron microscopy. The objects of her studies are complex intermetallics which exhibit polymorphism, stacking faults and complex twinning. In recent work on complex borides and antimonides she has applied high-resolution pow-der diffraction, single crystal diffraction and total scattering methods synergistically to establish the real atomic structures.

Her approach relies on the combination of strong synthetic skills, excellent knowledge of crystallography and novel theoretical methods to accelerate materials discovery. Her independent publications focus on difficult-to-prepare and mostly unknown novel materials synthesis, structure, and property measurements. A recent publication illustrates her ability to combine theory with experimental work and her skill in carrying out detailed property measurements. She synthesized two, novel lithium nickel boride polymorphs with layered crystal structures in which the packing motifs are unique among the known ternary transition-metal borides. The complex crystal structure was investigated using a combination of single crystal/synchrotron powder x-ray diffraction, solid-state 7Li and 11B NMR spectroscopy, scanning transmission electron microscopy, quantum-chemical calculations, and magnetism.

Julia is one of the most prominent young investigators in the fields of inorganic, materials, and solid state chemistry as attested by her being recognized with a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. She is providing high impact with very creative research that focuses on the synthesis, structure and characterization of novel materials that have great potential for surprising and unexpected discoveries.

Established in 2002, the Etter Award was established to recognize outstanding achievement and exceptional potential in crystallographic research demonstrated by a scientist at an early stage of their independent career. The award is established to honor the memory of Professor Margaret C. Etter (1943-1992), who was a major contributor to the field of organic solid-state chemistry. Her work particularly emphasized the use of hydrogen bonds and co-crystals. In addition to a large body of experimental work she was the major force in devising a set of rules known as graph sets to describe hydrogen bonds in a way that revealed similarities between structures without being tied up in the crystallographic details. Her experience teaching at an undergraduate institution and in working in both an industrial and academic setting gave her an unusually broad perspective from which to mentor students and to support and encourage colleagues. She had a love for people, for science, and especially for people who do science, that we honor. Read more about ACA awards and how you can submit a nomination.