Clarice Phelps is being nominated for the IUPAC Periodic Table of Younger Chemists for her outstanding commitment to research and public engagement, as well as being an important advocate for diversity. She is the first African-American women to be involved with the discovery of an element, tennessine (Element 117).
At Oak Ridge National Lab, Phelps was part of a three-month process to purify berkelium-249, which was combined with calcium-48 in a fusion reaction at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. Alongside her work on Element 117, Phelps studies the processing of radioactive transuranic elements, including plutonium-238 and californium-252.
Before she joined Oak Ridge National Lab, she served in the US Navy Nuclear Power Program, which operates and maintains the nuclear reactors that power the Navy’s submarines and aircraft carriers. She spent four and a half years aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
Phelps is committed to outreach and education, and is on the Board of Directors for Youth Outreach in STEM (YO-STEM). In 2017 she was awarded the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Tribute to Women Award in the area of Technology, Research, and Innovation Award, which recognizes “women who lead their fields in technology and excel in community service”.