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Chun Ning (Jeanie) Lau

Watch research videoProfessor of Physics
 
Jeanie 
Lau

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Experimental condensed matter physics
  • Nanometer-scale physics
  • Electrical properties of graphene
  • Superconductivity
  • Electronic transport in nanostructures
College: Department: Affiliations: Press Release / Article: Profile:

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2008)
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2008)
  • Robert T. Poe Faculty Development Grant (2007)

Research Summary

Novel physics and phenomena of nanoscale systems such as nanowires, carbon nanotubes and organic molecules.

Q&A

Q: What is graphene?
Graphene is a two -dimensional (2D) relative of carbon nanotubes. It is nature’s thinnest elastic material and displays exceptional mechanical and electronic properties. Its one- atom thickness, planar geometry, high current-carrying capacity and thermal conductivity make it ideally suited for further miniaturizing electronics through ultra-small devices and components for semiconductor circuits and computers. Technologically, it is an attractive material for nanoscale electronics engineering.

Q: What are hot topics for researchers in your field?
The most basic question graphene researchers face is how to improve graphene’s electrical conductivity. If we could achieve it, we could make such things as electron lenses, mirrors, interferometers and resonators, revolutionizing an entire industry. On the materials side, we’re trying to synthesize high quality, low cost, uniform graphene layers to usher in the age of graphene-based electronics. Over the past 40 years, science and engineering research along this line has helped bring about the revolution in the electronic and information technology industries – a trend that will most likely continue.

Q: Who influenced your career path the most?
My childhood hero was Madame Curie, a brilliant scientist who received two Nobel Prizes, married a physicist and raised two daughters. I’ve achieved one thing she did—I married a physicist, too! My advisors during my undergraduate and graduate studies (Drs. Sid Nagel and Heinrich Jaeger at the University of Chicago; Dr. Michael Tinkham at Harvard) deeply influenced me. Not only are they great scientists, they are also great mentors, passionate about science, who encouraged and guided me when I became disheartened. One of my graduate students influenced me, as well. Back in early 2006, when graphene research was still in its infancy and only a few groups in the world were active in the field, I gave him two choices for his next project: study the electrical properties of carbon nanotubes or graphene. Despite the risks, he chose the latter because it had more opportunities for discovery. Clearly, he made an excellent choice.

Q: What advice do you give students?
Two qualities are particularly important for a successful career in science: passion and perseverance. Follow your heart and don’t give up when things get tough. Find a mentor to help you avoid some of the “potholes” as you travel down the scientific career road. Be prepared that being a scientist is not easy—you can work long hours, become chronically sleep deprived and be almost constantly frustrated. But nothing can compare with the sense of satisfaction and elation you get when you understand something fundamental about nature, when you discover something for the first time, or when you see your student mature into an independent scientist. These thrills make all the hard work and efforts worthwhile.

Q: Which thinkers, speakers of books do you recommend for a general audience who would like to better understand your field?
I recommend “No Small Matter” by Felice Frankel and George Whitesides.
Jeanie Lau "The most basic question graphene researchers face is how to improve graphene’s electrical conductivity."

—Jeanie Lau