Mentors & Their Research

Below is a list of professors at the University of Utah who are available to mentor potential Crus Scholars. A short description of their work can be found here as well. To reach out to any of these professors, their contact information can be found at

Jeff Bates

Professor Bates’ research focuses on polymer materials and their interfaces with biological systems. Projects range from sustainable polymer materials that become nutrients for microorganisms to biomedical materials that interact with biomarkers, biological signals, hormones, and single cells. In addition, we work on the physics of glide performance in skiing and snowboarding, where we characterize the snow interface on the temperature-dependent properties of polymers and waxes.

Michael Free

Professor Free's research focuses on various materials and processing methods to separate rare earth and other critical materials from solutions to produce high-purity products—processes that are critical to the current energy-transition approaches as communities worldwide focus on decarbonizing energy.

Jiaqi Jin

Professor Jin’s research focuses on recycling carbon materials in batteries, such as graphite and metal oxides, that can be used to build new parts of the battery assembly. Characterization of recycled graphite can provide significant information about the quality of carbon and possible change of graphitic structures through the recycling process. Ultimately this research can lead to better approaches to battery recycling and minimize reliance on battery materials’ primary mining resources.

Swomitra Mohanty

Professor Mohanty’s research focuses on using applied nanomaterials and electrochemistry to solve problems in low-resources settings. Specifically, he has spent the last 10 years working on point-of-care diagnostics designed to detect tuberculosis from volatile organic compounds from breath using engineered nanostructured materials. He is also applying this technology to pneumonia and colorectal cancer. Professor Mohanty also uses similar materials for sensing contaminants and purifying drinking water in rural areas, with a focus on biological contaminants and heavy metals.

Hong Yong Sohn

Professor Sohn’s project aims to produce steel from the lunar regolith. The project is titled “Production of Steel from Lunar Regolith through Carbonyl Iron Refining (CIR).” The proposed technology is a novel two-stage process for separating and collecting reduced iron (Fe) as a solution to steel production in situ on the moon, starting from on-site minerals. A two-stage process technology is proposed. In the first stage, iron oxide component in the lunar regolith is reduced to metallic Fe using CO(g) or H2(g) harvested from CO2(g) and H2O(g) ice deposits commonly found in lunar craters; this process would yield reduced Fe(s) metal mixed with unwanted gangue minerals. In the second stage the Fe is separated from the large amount of the gangue minerals via the formation of Fe(CO)5(g), which is moved to a decomposing chamber to precipitate pure iron that can be processed to steel.

Xinbo Yang

Professor Yang's research focuses on extractive metallurgy, with a strong emphasis on the sustainable extraction of critical materials thorough the development innovative technologies and new sustainable materials for extraction processes. The research group aims to minimize carbon footprint, reduce energy consumption, and decrease the reliance on chemical-intensive methods while efficiently extracting critical materials from various sources or waste streams to achieve a zero-waste extraction process.