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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Faculty & Staff

Physicist awarded $35,000 professorship for research

Courtesy of UH Physics Department

Dr. Shuo Chen was recoginzed by the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston for her situ electron microscopy research.  |  Courtesy of the UH Physics Department

Shuo Chen, an assistant professor in the department of physics, was recognized by the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UΗ for her research in transmission electron microscopy and was awarded earlier this month with the Robert A. Welch Professorship in High Temperature Superconductivity and Materials Physics.

The $37,500 per year, two-year professorship will help Chen recruit research assistants, attend conferences and pay for materials to further her research in the physics of materials.

“I am delighted and honored to receive this award, because it is an acknowledgement of my past work as well as an encouragement to my future work,” Chen said.

“I feel very happy that I can get some additional support for my research.”

Chen began exploring the world of situ electron microscopy 10 years ago. Her recent research has resulted in the discovery of an TEM technique that allows her to synthesize a material and find out its properties and structure simultaneously.

Chen said her technique is like a tool that people can use to study different materials and their properties, specifically at the nanometric scale for positive and negative battery materials, materials that convert heat to electricity and for superconductors. One nanometer is about a hundred thousand times smaller than the thickness of a piece of paper.

“Typically people will do synthesis, test their property and check their microstructure using a microscope,” Chen said.

“What I am doing is I synthesize the material and then I can test both the property and the structure at the same time, so I can do two things at one time. I know exactly when this material is used and operated and the structure of its evolution, so I can achieve an atomic resolution on that material and gain a better understanding of why it behaves that way.”

What Chen is doing is similar to cooking something and figuring out why it tastes good or bad by examining its properties. Figuring out why it tastes a certain way is just like the microscopy work Chen conducts on materials.

“I am interested in materials because they are building blocks of our world,” Chen said. “I think that when the fundamental properties are crystal clear, we will have a better control on how to further improve the materials.”

Chen said she is more than happy to introduce interested students into the world of fundamental studies.

“My lab is open for any curious students,” Chen said. “If they have some crazy idea, they are more than welcome to discuss it with me.”

Chen said it is critical for students to “keep learning and improving.”

“I encourage students to see how wonderful (fundamental research) can be,” Chen said. “I just feel so excited every time I discover something new.”

Any students interested in the world of materials physics and fundamental research can contact Chen at [email protected].

This article originally stated that Dr. Chen’s professorship was awarded a $35,000 two-year professorship, when in actuality it is awarded $37,000 per year resulting in $75,000. This article also stated that Chen’s research resulted in the discovery of SEM techniques, not TEM techniques.

[email protected]

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