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Meyya Meyyappan

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Chief Scientist for Exploration Technology
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, California, United States



Education:

  • B. Tech, Madras University, India
  • M. Sc, Aston University, Birmingham, UK
  • Ph.D, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY, US

Work Focus:

Meyya is Chief Scientist for Exploration Technology at NASA Ames Research Center. 

Advice to Students:

  • "Get a strong grounding on your basics: physics, chemistry and biology.
  • Almost all traditional departments at universities (chemistry, physics, EE, ME, ChE, material science) deal with nanotechnology.  Choose a major of your interest and do a nanotechnology focus at that dept. (unless a degree/major in nanotechnology is directly available).
  • Try to do internships in companies/govt labs during summer breaks or extra year of co-op.
  • Try to enroll in undergraduate research with a professor."

Links:

  - NASA Ames Research Center

Interview:

Q: When did you first find that your career path focused on nanotechnology?
Meyyappan: In 1996, I was involved with three other colleagues from government in creating the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative as the original four member team of the Interagency Working Group on Nanotechnology (which expanded later to include 20 Federal Agencies).  I started working on the technical aspects right away in 1997.   

Q: What current nanotechnology applications are you working on?  
Meyyappan:
Chemical sensors, biosensors, detectors, phase change memory, carbon nanotube based field emission devices, energy storage devices.    

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about working with nanotechnology?
Meyyappan:
Interdisciplinary aspects of the field, the breadth of application possibilities.    

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've worked on has positively impacted the world?
Meyyappan:
Our group has developed a carbon nanotube based chemical sensor which will be commercialized in a couple of years for biomedical, security and other applications.    

Q: What do you think is the single greatest impact nanotechnology has had on the world thus far?  
Meyyappan:
Too early to give a meaningful answer.  This will take time.    

Q: Please give an example of what you envision nanotechnology applications leading to in the future.  
Meyyappan:
Sensors, nanomaterials in coatings and composites, advanced memory devices.    

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Meyyappan:
Team work, absolutely.  Very hard to do anything alone.    

Q: If you work more as a team, what are some of the other areas of expertise of your team members?   
Meyyappan:
Application development needs contribution from physicists, chemists, material scientists, biologists (for biomedical and other bio applications) and engineers.    

Q: Did your university training help you in your nanotechnology work?
Meyyappan:
When I was at school, nanotechnology as a term didn’t exist.  Yes, good comprehension of physics and chemistry helps.   

Q: Do you have a mentor?  Did you in your college years?
Meyyappan:
No. 

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still focus on nanotechnology applications?
Meyyappan:
Yes.  

Q: If a high school or college student was interested in nanotechnology, what advice would you give them to help prepare take on those roles?  
Meyyappan:

  • "Get a strong grounding on your basics: physics, chemistry and biology.
  • Almost all traditional departments at universities (chemistry, physics, EE, ME, ChE, material science) deal with nanotechnology.  Choose a major of your interest and do a nanotechnology focus at that dept. (unless a degree/major in nanotechnology is directly available).
  • Try to do internships in companies/govt labs during summer breaks or extra year of co-op.
  • Try to enroll in undergraduate research with a professor.