Alumnus Jacob Belding wins NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Alumnus Jacob Belding, previously an Ohio State chemical engineering honors student who graduated in May 2022 with a perfect 4.0 gpa, was selected to receive the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRFP).
The NSF-GRFP is the oldest and arguably most prestigious award of its type and is highly competitive, with annual acceptance rates of only about 16 percent from among more than 12,000 applicants.
Belding is currently a doctoral student in chemical engineering at Cornell, where he is focusing his studies on computational modeling of sustainable energy systems and incentives and applying machine learning to develop a better understanding of the behavior of markets for the trading of carbon credits. He is being jointly advised by Professor Jefferson Tester and Professor Jeffrey Varner.
As a chemical engineering undergraduate at Ohio State, Belding was already getting traction as an outstanding scholar. He was awarded a Fulbright Canada Globalink fellowship in 2020 to study at the University of Alberta in Canada, working with Professor Vladimir Michaelis on atomistic simulations of electronic and energy materials. He had also been selected for the Ohio State Eminence Fellowship, which fully covered his attendance costs. As an Eminence Fellow, he participated in volunteer work along with the 20 other recipients in his cohort to study and then implement plans to combat the issues of technology access inequality and electronic waste under an organization named The Right Click, for whom he created branding materials and graphic design.
Belding’s undergraduate honors research thesis, performed under the advisement of Professor Li-Chiang Lin and titled "Rational Design of Reverse Osmosis Membrane Materials via Pore Geometry Evaluation in a Molecular Dynamics Model," earned him an additional Honors Research Distinction in Chemical Engineering on his diploma. He also received the 2022 American Institute of Chemical Engineers' (AIChE) Chapter Award for Central Ohio Section Outstanding Student. while an undergraduate.
Belding is interested in a wide variety of fields, but his overarching goal is to work to enable the continued development of sustainable energy infrastructure in a way that can benefit all aspects of society. His experience, even as an undergraduate, has been wide-ranging. It includes experimental and computational research in a variety of settings, including R&D facilities at Procter & Gamble, the labs at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, the Battelle Memorial Institute, and research groups at The Ohio State University.
At P&G he worked as a Packaging Development R&D intern, optimizing the design of the standard 1-gallon bottle prominently used in commercial sectors, running trials to increase recycled plastic content in packaging materials, and developing a sustainable dye-free technique to achieve white coloration in plastic packaging.
At NASA, he worked on the testing and diagnostics of solar cells for use in space, including work on a large solar simulator designed to mimic the sunlight spectrum experienced in outer space. He was fortunate to be present in the lab to accompany his colleagues for the finalization of the “Photovoltaic Investigation on the Lunar Surface” (PILS) flight hardware. PILS is slated to fly to the moon during a mission planned for late 2024. Although he was eligible for conversion to a full-time role within NASA as part of the federal Pathways Program, he made the difficult decision to move on from this position in order to pursue his dream of attending graduate school.
During his 2017-2018 stint as a lab analyst at the Battelle Memorial Institute, he worked on a project to investigate the modification of living cells using CRISPR gene-editing technology. Jacob’s typical roles included designing and performing CRISPR experiments in the lab using E. coli bacteria or human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells.
Jacob was also heavily involved in Ohio State's American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) undergraduate student chapter, serving as Professional Development Coordinator and later as External Vice President. He led the planning of professional development events for AIChE student members such as company info sessions, career skills workshops, and an annual industry networking night. He maintains his involvement with the Ohio State AIChE chapter by serving as an external mentor to help Ohio State undergraduates who are interested in pursuing graduate school find the resources they need to succeed.
Apart from chemical engineering, Belding is also interested in computer science and design and is passionate about teaching and mentorship. He worked as a teaching assistant for five chemical engineering courses during his time at Ohio State and is now serving in an instructional role as a lead TA for a fluid mechanics course at Cornell. His recreational interests include spending time with his dog (a German Shepherd named Kousa), travel, and backpacking. A recent accomplishment was the completion of a rim-to-rim solo hike of the Grand Canyon.