Where did you study?
I studied physics in my undergraduate in Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and also got a MS degree in physics from Peking University, China. I came to the U.S. and obtained my PhD degree in the Applied Science and Technology Graduate Program in UC Berkeley. After a postdoc research at Harvard University, I returned to Berkeley to become a faculty in the MSE department in 2006.
Describe one of your current research topics, why it is important, what you have already achieved, and what you hope to achieve in the near future.
One of the recent projects in my group is engineering phase change materials for new thermal infrared applications. Infrared electromagnetic waves in the atmospheric-transparent spectral window of 8 to 14 microns is used for near-room-temperature thermography. We grow, process and assemble phase change materials into novel devices that can either hide thermal infrared signals, or enhance them. These devices are designed in such a way that their thermal emittance abruptly changes when temperature rises across a certain threshold. We have, for example, boosted the temperature sensitivity of thermal imaging by over an order of magnitude, such that a few milli-Kelvin can be resolved on the surface of an object near room temperature. One of the applications, for example, is that they might be used to image tumors such as early breast cancer, as these tumors could induce a slight temperature abnormality on the skin. Another direction is to develop a smart roof coating that switches its functionality from radiative cooling at high temperatures to keep-warm at low temperatures, saving air conditioning energy for the building. We hope to commercialize these technologies in the near future.
When you are not teaching, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
When I am not teaching or working, I mostly play with my two kids. My eight-year-old son is a big fan in science and technology, and it is such an incredible joy for me that whatever I teach him, he believes! He said he will invent a time machine, and turn the clock back to the years when I was at his age, so that he can play with his boy daddy! My four-year-old daughter is a huge fan of Elsa, -- I am still learning how to play with her.
Before I had kids, I liked hiking, gardening, calligraphy and painting. When I am less busy in the future, I may pick up them again.