Return to Tech and CARES Act Information

Cory Hawkins

Cory Hawkins, Ph.D.


Cory  Hawkins


Assistant Professor



Email Address:


(931) 372-6819


Foster 127


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2012

Currently, research in the Hawkins Group explores the structures and underlying equilibrium chemistry involved in metal ion separations. Our emphasis is on the solution chemistry of metal ions (e.g., f-elements and fission products), their interactions with molecular ligands, as well as ligand-solvent interactions that affect the kinetics and thermodynamics in chemical separations. By interrogating the complexation and phase partitioning of metal ions in terms of (i) host-guest chemistry, (ii) solvation effects, (iii) ion-exchange processes, and (iv) higher-order structures, using a variety of spectroscopic, scattering and electrochemical techniques, we intend to develop a detailed picture of systems employing traditional or novel metal ion ligands in both molecular and ionic liquid solvents. In particular, our research is inspired by a number of questions, among these are:

  • What is the equilibrium coordination environment of a given metal ion-ligand complex in solution?
  • How does this (do these) structure(s) arise from the kinetics of complexation?
  • How does aqueous metal ion chemistry and the coordination environment(s), including the inner and outer spheres, affect metal ion transport mechanisms from one immiscible phase to another?
  • How do metal ion-ligand complex structures/charges change with the structure of the solvent, especially from molecular solvents to ionic liquid solvents?
  • How are those mechanisms involved in the formation of aggregate structures in liquid-liquid extraction systems?
  • What is the role of water/acid (if any) in the transport and structure of the solvent extracted metal ion-ligand complex, as well as, in any aggregate structures?

The inspiration for our research is derived from a variety of applications, including advanced nuclear fuel cycle research and development, and radiochemical analysis. From these studies, significant improvements in general extraction process control and sample analysis are envisioned. Our motivation is to facilitate the development of more effective ways to remediate used nuclear fuel and low-level waste, as well as to enable higher-throughput techniques for the determination of certain metal ions in samples ranging from environmental to biological in their origin.