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Geology’s Vilcáez selected as 2024-25 U.S. Fulbright Scholar

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

Dr. Javier Vilcáez, an associate professor in Oklahoma State University’s Boone Pickens School of Geology, has been selected as a 2024 U.S. Fulbright Scholar.  

With the award, Vilcáez will research lithium recovery from brines of Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flat and teach two courses — environmental data analytics and environmental mining of energy and mineral resources — at Universidad Privada Boliviana in Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

“The Uyuni Salt Flat is the largest lithium brine deposit in the world,” Vilcáez said. “I hope sharing my research experience on the Water-Energy-CO2 Nexus as a Fulbright scholar with researchers and students in Bolivia will contribute toward Bolivia’s net-zero emissions energy transition. Bolivia is full of energy and mineral resources that could be developed using environmentally friendly technologies like the ones I research.” 

Vilcáez said that the Fulbright program provides the perfect opportunity for U.S. scholars to start new research collaborations to solve global challenges.  

“My interest sparked from the promising results we have obtained on the feasibility of recovering critical metals including lithium from brines using a new technology that I’m researching with my students at OSU, as well as from a recent visit I made to Bolivia where there is remarkable interest in developing lithium resources from Uyuni’s salt flat,” Vilcáez said. “The supply of lithium is paramount for energy transition across the globe. Therefore, I decided this was a unique opportunity to expand my frontiers in research and teaching in the field of energy transition.” 

Dr. Camelia Knapp, CAS associate dean for research, echoed the importance of Vilcáez’s work. 

“Lithium is a critical mineral for the global energy transition,” Knapp said. “Therefore, Dr. Javier Vilcáez’s selection as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar for Bolivia — where the largest lithium brine deposit in the world is located — will advance CAS within the global research landscape of energy transition. 

“His research on mining of critical minerals from brines will open new avenues to other research he and other faculty members at the Boone Pickens School of Geology are conducting on energy transition.” 

Beyond lithium research, Vilcáez studies other energy transition-related topics such as geological hydrogen and carbon storage, hydrogen production, and petroleum produced water treatment and disposal.  

 “Establishing collaborations with researchers to recover lithium from the largest lithium brine deposit in the world will strengthen the impact of those research projects too,” Vilcáez said. “Lithium is a critical metal for the global push for decarbonization, which my other research projects aim to solve. Moreover, I hope my involvement as a Fulbright scholar will expand the scope of my teaching activities and increase the research opportunities for students interested in following a career in the energy transition.” 

Learn more about the Fulbright program here 

Story By: Erin Weaver, CAS Communications Coordinator |

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