Nicholas Benjamin Williams
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego
B.A. in Chemistry
Washington and Jefferson College
B.A. in Economics
Washington and Jefferson College
Currently, Nick is investigating the decomposition of a molecular catalyst-semiconductor hybrid system designed to produce Hydrogen gas. Understanding the mechanism of decomposition has led to the design of better molecular catalysts expected to inhibit degradation during the photoelectrochemical production of Hydrogen. Fundamental studies such as this are necessary for the rational design of better, more efficient and cost-effective solar fuel producing systems in the times to come which we so readily need.
I enjoy camping at places like Death Valley, Yellowstone, and the Black hills. I like to bake my own bread.
My ARCS Award
Throughout the last year, whether I was working in lab, reading literature or communicating with scientists and colleagues, I was always learning. Most of the time I was stressed or tired, but thanks to the ARCS Award, the burden of finances was very much alleviated. It gave me the freedom to sit down over the weekends and learn some new fields of sciences related to my work, such as the area of self-assembled monolayers and ion scattering spectroscopy or potential organic liquids for hydrogen storage applications, that I may not have had the time to do. The ARCS Award has been a phenomenal help, and going forward this upcoming year working solely on advancing my PhD, I am truly excited for what I will learn in the year to come
ARCS Foundation – San Diego
Virginia Lynch Grady Endowment
Our lab studies the evolution of ciliated epidermal sensory neuron (CESN) development during embryogenesis using the marine invertebrate chordate Ciona robusta. Pou4, a proneural transcription factor (TF) involved in C. robusta peripheral nervous system development is necessary and sufficient for CESN differentiation.
My primary research focus aims to understand how CESNs differentiate, thus, what are the factors involved in activating Pou4? I am approaching this question in a number of ways. By having reviewed relevant literature, TF binding motif analyses, and an RNA-seq database I generated, I made informed predictions regarding genes, i.e. potential Pou4 activators and repressors, expressed in the correct pre-Pou4 location. This approach has revealed TFs that when ectopically expressed seem to increase the number of CESNs indicating activation of Pou4, and genes that decrease the number of CESNs indicating repression of Pou4. Once individual proteins are identified, I perform an overexpression screen and a CRISPR screen to establish their role as either Pou4 activators or repressors.
Publication & Posters
Fang, C.; Li J.; Zhang, Y.; Yang, F.; Lee, J.L.; Lee, M.; Alvarado, J.; Wang, X.; Schroeder, M.; Yang, Y.; Williams, N.; Ceja, M.; Yang, L.; Cai, M.; Gu, J.; Xu, K.; Wang, X.; Meng, Y.S. Quantifying inactive lithium in lithium metal batteries. Nature 2019 572, 511-515.
Huang, Y.; Sun, Y.; Zheng, X.; Aoki, T.; Pattengale, B.; Huang, J.; He, X.; Bian, W.; Younan, S.; Williams, N.; Hu, J.; Ge, J.; Pu, N.; Yan, X.; Pan, X.; Zhang, L.; Wei, Y.; Gu, J. Atomically engineering activation sites onto metallic 1T-MoS2 catalysts for enhanced electrochemical hydrogen evolution. Nature Communications 2019, 10 (1).
Zhou, Y.-H.; Wang, S.; Zhang, Z.; Williams, N.; Cheng, Y.; Gu, J. Hollow nickel-cobalt layered double hydroxide supported palladium catalysts with superior hydrogen evolution activity for hydrolysis of ammonia borane. ChemCatChem 2018, 10 (15), 3206–3213.
Zhou Y.-H.; Zhang, Z.; Wang, S.; Williams, N.; Cheng, Y.; Luo, S.; Gu J. rGO supported PdNi-CeO2 nanocomposite as an efficient catalyst for hydrogen evolution from the hydrolysis of NH3BH3. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 2018 43, 18745-18753.
Awards & Honors
National Renewable Energy Lab Summer research internship, July 2019; SDSU Dept. Chemistry and Biochemistry Outstanding Masters Research Award, Fall 2017; ARCS Foundation, Inc. – San Diego Award, Fall 2017 to Present.
Benefits to Science and Society
In catalyst development, the major focus lies in designing better catalysts with understanding the limitation and pitfalls taking a backseat. This work offers insight into the reasons why a very particular and specific system failed. The methodology however can be used on a broader level applied to a wide variety of catalysts. Developing an understanding for why a catalyst fails can aid in the designing of better structures in the future.