Husnu Emrah Unalan
Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
Middle East Technical University
- B.S. Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Middle East Technical University, Turkey, 2002
- M.S. Materials Science and Engineering, Rutgers University, USA, 2004
- Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering, Rutgers University, USA, 2006
"I am both lecturing and leading a group of MS and PhD students in my institution."
Advice to Students:
"They will need a strong background in maths, physics and chemistry. In addition to that, most of the departments in the universities are now offering nanotechnology 101 courses. I would advise them to take those courses."
Q: When did you first find that your career path focused on nanotechnology?
Unalan: About 8 years ago when I started my graduate studies. I have started with the synthesis of carbon nanotubes and then involved with the optical and electrical properties of carbon nanotube thin films.
Q: What current nanotechnology applications are you working on?
Unalan: My research group and I currently work on the solution based, cheap and large scale synthesis of nanomaterials in different chemistries. This is because most of the fields we foresee for the applications of nanomaterials require their synthesis in large quantities. Following synthesis, we are fabricating devices utilizing these nanomaterials to explore their properties. Devices of interest include light emitting diodes, transistors, solar cells, batteries and supercapacitors.
Q: What's the most rewarding thing about working with nanotechnology?
Unalan: We are witnessing a revolution in materials science and physics because the materials properties change when we work at the nanoscale. When it comes to applications, we know that there are endless possibilities that nanotechnology can be applied to -- from transportation to medicine.
Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you’ve worked on has positively impacted the world?
Unalan: It is too early to talk about impacting the world but, my PhD work on carbon nanotube thin films and post doctoral work on zinc oxide nanowires contributed positively to the field.
Q: What do you think is the single greatest impact nanotechnology has had on the world thus far?
Unalan: Nanotechnology allows us to miniaturize the devices. Scaling down the size of the transistors in the processors allows one to fabricate and stack more of them in the desired area. This allows us to fabricate faster computers.
Q: Please give an example of what you envision nanotechnology applications leading to in the future.
Unalan: I think of applications in two fields. First is related to energy. Large surface area of the nanomaterials will certainly lead to better batteries and supercapacitors. Second one is biological applications. Targeted drug delivery could be an example. It is due to the new entry ways of nanomaterials into human body and their high mobility therein.
Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Unalan: My graduate students and I work as a team. We also collaborate with research groups within and outside Turkey.
Q: If you work more as a team, what are some of the other areas of expertise of your team members?
Unalan: Nanotechnology is certainly an interdisciplinary field. Our team members have material science, physics and electrical engineering backgrounds. I believe this is the way to have fruitful results. I would as well like biologists and chemists to join our team at some point in the future.
Q: Did your university training help you in your nanotechnology work?
Unalan: Not exactly in nanotechnology; but it provided me with basic mathematics, physics and chemistry and a broad materials perspective.
Q: Do you have a mentor? Did you in your college years?
Unalan: I had very close relationships with my professors when I was an undergraduate. I can consider them to be my mentors. I used to talk to them about my courses, internships and graduate studies. Some of the professors also allowed me to conduct research in their laboratories in my senior year. I had tons of hands-on-experience on lab practice and had a local journal article published.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still focus on nanotechnology applications?
Unalan: Yes, I would certainly focus on nanotechnology.
Q: What advice do you have for pre-university students?
Unalan: They will need a strong background in maths, physics and chemistry. In addition to that, most of the departments in the universities are now offering nanotechnology 101 courses. I would advise them to take those courses.
Another suggestion could be to get involved with research projects in their departments starting from their freshman year. Even if they start with washing the glassware it is fine :)
Engineering students will be asked to conduct summer practices. They should try to get affiliated with companies or research laboratories on this field.
They should read a lot. This includes books, articles and scientific papers. They should not get discouraged if they don’t understand what is stated in there. There are really good reference books on nanotechnology where they can easily read and understand without getting bored. There are also many websites (nanotechweb, sciencedaily etc.) publishing on popular topics, which needs to be checked on a weekly basis.