Dr. Yanwei Lum
Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), Singapore
Why did you choose to study MSE?
In high school, I really enjoyed learning about physics and chemistry. The idea that physical phenomena happening around us could be explained through concepts, rules and equations appealed greatly to me. When it was time for college, I decided to major in MSE because it felt like a field that combines these subjects in innovative ways for practical solutions to our everyday problems. For graduate school, I picked UC Berkeley because I was impressed by the quality of the PhD program and the top-notch research facilities available. More importantly, I felt that there was much to learn from and be inspired by the passionate and brilliant minds around. I was not disappointed.
What do you like most about MSE?
The course I liked most was phase transformations. The fact that atoms in a solid could arrange themselves in so many different ways depending on how we treat them was thoroughly fascinating to me. I would spend many hours just staring at ternary phase diagrams and their intriguing isothermal sections. At UC Berkeley, I was fortunate to be able to GSI this class for Prof. Mark Asta, whom I learnt a lot from and am really thankful for.
Any interesting projects/research you are working on now that you’d like to share?
During my PhD studies at UC Berkeley, I had the pleasure of working with Prof. Joel Ager and Prof. Fiona Doyle on electrochemical CO2 conversion, which I am still working on now. The dream is to be able to take excess renewable energy from the grid and use it to transform CO2 back into the fuels or chemical feedstocks that we need. This helps close the anthropogenic carbon cycle. I am also particularly interested in developing electrochemical processes for renewable energy powered chemical synthesis. During my PostDoc with Prof. Edward Sargent at U of T, I discovered a catalyst for generating ethylene glycol – an important commodity chemical used for making everyday plastics and antifreeze (20 million tonnes annually).
What do you enjoy doing outside of school?
I like to watch soccer and I am a fan of Arsenal, a team that plays in the English Premier League. I also enjoy exercising by jogging and playing badminton with friends. When time permits, I am also very inclined towards a movie/drama binge.
What are your future plans?
Currently, I am employed as a research scientist at a National Laboratory in Singapore (A*STAR) and I am working towards becoming an independent PI. My main research interests will be on answering fundamental questions in electrocatalysis, artificial intelligence for renewable energy research and developing innovative technologies for carbon utilization.