A Barbadian-born scientist in the United States has earned recognition for his research into the conversion of solar energy into a clean, environmentally friendly, carbon-free, combustible fuel.
Dr Alvin Holder, assistant professor in chemistry at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Career Award,Dr Alvin Holder, assistant professor in chemistry at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Career Award, a grant of US$530 000 (BDS$1.06 million), for his work on the use of mixed metal complexes in the photocatalytic production of hydrogen from water.
The award, through the foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Programme, is in support of junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and excellent education.
Holder, 46, said he became the first Barbadian to be awarded such a grant at any academic institution in the United States and also the first black member of the faculty at USM to earn the award.
It will allow him to further research the generation of hydrogen from water via sunlight in the presence of new chemicals made in the laboratory. The ultimate goal would be to produce hydrogen efficiently and cheaply enough for it to serve as a reliable, practical fuel alternative and thus eliminate reliance on crude oil and other non-renewable energy sources.
“We are very optimistic that copious amounts of the clean fuel, hydrogen, will be produced from water within 20 years from now just like how plants utilize sunlight during photosynthesis,” he said.
Holder, who was born and raised in Foster Hall, St John, attended The Lodge School and the University of the West Indies. He sees the award as credit to Barbados and those two institutions, especially The Lodge School, where his early love of chemistry was nurtured by Colin “Black Beard” Harper and Cornelius Shea.
“Without the moral support of my Lodge School teachers and lecturers from the University of the West Indies [Mona and Cave Hill campuses], I wouldn’t have been able to get this award. I am ever grateful for their support over the years. I will always remain humble and positive with God’s help,” he said, adding The Lodge School’s motto Possunt Quia Posse Videntur (They Can Because They Think They Can).
The Lodge holds a special place in Holder’s heart. He recalled playing, as an 11-year-old, with a chemistry set belonging to Herbie Skeete (a 1970 Barbados Scholar from The Lodge) at the home of Skeete’s mother, Thelma, a neighbour in Foster Hall. The next year, Holder’s mother bought him a set. It was also at the school that two of his other passions – bodybuilding and athletics – developed.
Holder was very pleased by the news earlier this year that his alma mater had landed its first Barbados Scholar since 1986, Charles Cole, and hoped his own award would serve as further inspiration to students to strive for excellence.
He maintains contact with former and current students and teachers, and on a visit to Barbados in 2010, at the invitation of principal Trevor Pilgrim, gave a motivational talk to the students.
Holder lives with his Jamaican-born wife and their son in Mississippi.
SOURCE: Nation News