Arnold receives international honor for innovation in research and education

// Materials Science & Engineering

Tags: Faculty, research

(from left to right): Wendell Albright, state director of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Mike Arnold; and Jonathan Margolis, deputy assistant secretary for science, space, and health, U.S. Department of State. Photo credit: Tracy Huang

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Materials Science and Engineering Professor Mike Arnold was recently named a U.S. runner-up for the ASPIRE international prize for innovation in research and education sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Arnold also received $1,500 for his runner-up placement. The U.S. State Department, which sponsored Arnold’s nomination for the ASPIRE (APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education) honor, flew Arnold to Washington, D.C., in June 2017, where he gave a presentation on his research.

The ASPIRE prize is open to scientists under age 40 who have demonstrated excellence in a specific research field, which changes every year. In 2017, the prize theme—chosen by APEC member states Vietnam and Peru—was “new material technologies.”

The theme fit well with Arnold’s research in materials, so he applied for the award, which required an extensive overview of his research to date. “I applied because I’m really excited about the research my group has been doing,” Arnold says. At the center of his application was Arnold’s research on synthesizing and processing of carbon nanomaterials, including carbon nanotubes and graphene. These nanomaterials have long held potential to outperform traditional semiconductors, but they’ve proven difficult to work with, which has limited their industrial application.

But Arnold’s research group has solved some of the major challenges in synthesizing and processing carbon nanotubes, breakthroughs that will help pave the way for their eventual use as advanced semiconductors in circuitry. Arnold’s group has also made breakthroughs in understanding and synthesizing graphene.

It was these achievements and his many others—Arnold’s research has been cited more than 8,000 times and his work has received 15 patents—that resulted in his selection as a runner-up for the highly competitive international prize.

And it reflects Arnold’s progress toward one of his major career goals—to use basic science to tackle big, fundamental problems in materials research and eventually produce technology that can be commercialized and widely used in products.

“In my nine years, we’ve made tremendous progress toward that goal,” Arnold says. “I’m excited for the future.”

Author: Will Cushman