A degree that makes a difference
In his “Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering” class taught by Professor Michael Arnold, Tou Chang was intrigued when he learned that power could be harvested from the sun via the photovoltaic effect. Growing up in a refugee family in rural Thailand, Tou knew that access to electricity should not be taken for granted, explaining “My family endured poor living conditions before arriving in the United States. Electricity was out of the question back then.”
Tou envisioned how electronic nanomaterials and devices, if manufactured inexpensively, could make advanced technologies accessible to people in third world countries, improving their quality of life. Consequently, Tou chose the Electronic Nanomaterials emphasis in the Materials Science and Engineering curriculum, allowing him to tailor his coursework and research to build a solid foundation in the development of electronic materials and devices.
Tou learned how to engineer materials at the nanoscale to tune their properties for specific electronic applications in his favorite course, “Microprocessing of Materials” (MSE 333) taught by Professor Chang-Beom Eom. Graduate students in the Eom group lead experiments that further demonstrated the practicality of the concepts taught in class. While studying abroad at Zhejiang University in China, Tou learned about recent developments in state-of-the-art solar cell performance, which motivated him to begin conducting hands-on research in Electronic Nanomaterials.
As a member of the Arnold group, Tou has acquired invaluable knowledge and training in the development of advanced nanomaterials for energy and electronics that build on the fundamentals accentuated throughout his coursework. His research experience has allowed Tou to work on projects ranging from carbon nanotube synthesis via chemical vapor deposition to the fabrication of large-area semiconducting graphene in collaboration with the Gopalan group. For his senior design project, Tou is developing a scalable method to “clone” semiconducting carbon nanotubes to control their optical and electronic properties. Tou enjoys the challenge of making theoretical visions become reality by systematically designing experiments and employing the scientific method.
Tou feels that his emphasis in Electronic Nanomaterials has prepared him for a variety of employment opportunities. But ultimately, he plans to pursue a career in photovoltaics, which is the field that initially captivated him as a freshman.