Wen Jung Li
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR
The People's Republic of China
- BS, Aerospace Engineering, Univ. of Southern California, USA
- MS, Aerospace Engineering, Univ. of Southern California, USA
- PhD, Aerospace Engineering, Univ. of California, Los Angeles, USA
Professor Li provides undergraduate students a solid technical education while guiding graduate students in the research and development of advanced technologies.
Advice to Students:
"Acquire strong fundamental knowledge in physics, chemistry, bio-molecular science, and IC/MEMS technologies."
Q: When did you first find that your career path focused on nanotechnology?
Li: While working on my PhD dissertation at UCLA.
Q: What current nanotechnology applications are you working on?
Li: Integrating carbon nanotubes into sensing devices such as acceleration sensor, alcohol vapor sensor, and chemical sensors.
Q: What's the most rewarding thing about working with nanotechnology?
Li: The diversity of engineering and scientific knowledge required to produce good nano-scale devices – my graduate students and I are learning new forefront technical knowledge every day while pursuing our research goals.
Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you’ve worked on has positively impacted the world?
Li: My team has produced a very low-cost carbon nanotube-based alcohol vapor sensor that requires less than 1000 times the power to operate than existing sensors in the market do. This technology will allow very low-cost breath-detection devices to be accessible by drivers world-wide, and minimize drink-and-drive related accidents globally.
Q: What do you think is the single greatest impact nanotechnology has had on the world thus far?
Li: Creation of new nanomaterials that are now allowing engineers and scientists to advance many areas of great importance to mankind. For example energy storage/generation systems, biomedical applications, and virus detection -- just to name a few.
Q: Please give an example of what you envision nanotechnology applications leading to in the future.
Li: In the short future, mobile phones that only need to be recharged once every 6 months; in the distant future – too many break-through technologies to select from to just name one.
Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Li: I work mostly as part of a team.
Q: If you work more as a team, what are some of the other areas of expertise of your team members?
Li: Chemical functionalization, material science, and bio-molecular technology. For example, to understand the fundamental electrical and mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes, we rely on the members with a strongly training in material science. But, to enhance a sensor's responsiveness to a specific input stimulus, we work with chemists who can help us with putting special molecules on the surface of carbon nanotubes (a process known as 'functionalization') that will interact specifically with the input stimulus. If a sensor were to be used in detecting bio-molecules, then we work with bio-molecular technology experts to design appropriate sensing elements.
Q: Did your university training help you in your nanotechnology work?
Li: Yes. I fortunately had a very broad training that included fundamental theories in mechanical and electronic engineering, coupled with hands-on-experience in clean rooms to fabricate MEMS devices. This training has helped me to focus on specific areas of nanotechnology research that I envision will revolutionize electronic products in the near future.
Q: Do you have a mentor? Did you in your college years?
Li: I do have one now, but not in college. My mentor now is a very accomplished professor in the USA who has been in academic research for over 45 years. He has inspired me to constantly seek innovation in all of my academic endeavors -- that means I need to be constantly updated on the forefront of research activities. There's not a more forefront and forward-looking technology than Nanotechnology now.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still focus on nanotechnology applications?
Li: Of course. No other technology has more potential in offering advances in medicine, materials, and electronic devices.
Q: What advice do you have for pre-university students?
Li: Acquire strong fundamental knowledge in physics, chemistry, bio-molecular science, and IC/MEMS technologies.