Page 38 - Engineering Penn State Magazine: Spring/Summer 2019
P. 38

What is your area of expertise?
My research group, the Nanoionics and Electronics Lab, studies the interplay between ions and two-dimensional (2D) materials to engineer low-power, next-generation electronics. The continuous miniaturization of electronics allows us to pack more computing power into our handheld devices, but we need new materials and device concepts to make the components even smaller.
One such material is 2D material—a sheet-like material that is only a single molecule thick. My Ph.D. training at Penn State focused on ion transport, and ions do a good job of controlling charge transport through the 2D sheets—a function that is critical for electronic devices.
What do you like the most about your job?
I love working at the boundary of what is known and what is unknown. Every research project moves that boundary to some extent, and watching my group move that boundary is quite thrilling. In teaching, I really enjoy watching students grasp the tough concepts and make connections between my course and other courses. To avoid the “curse of knowledge,” I try to put myself in their place and consider my level of understanding when I was sitting in the classrooms at Penn State.
Speaking of teaching, in December you won your department’s teaching award.
This is the 2018 James Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.
Pommersheim is a Pitt alum with a highly respected teaching career at Bucknell University, and he presented the award. The award recognizes excellence in teaching in our department, which for the past several years has earned the highest teaching record of any department in our school of engineering. With so many deserving faculty, it was quite an honor to win.
You are also the recipient of the 2019 AAAS Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences. Talk a bit about what the award means to you.
I am honored to be a recipient of this award, which was made possible by Dr. Milligan Mason, a chemist who was deeply committed to higher education for women. I’m eager to be a champion and ambassador for women in the chemical sciences. This, and my recent NSF CAREER Award, will open new doors for my research lab.
How did your Penn State chemical engineering education prepare you for your career in academia?
Above all, the Ph.D. provided me with a toolkit for tackling problems—even those outside my discipline. Some of the most exciting discoveries are happening at the intersection of multiple disciplines, and my training at Penn State enables me to be responsive to these opportunities. n
assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, earned her bachelor of science and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering at Penn State (2002 and 2009, respectively).

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