Principal Scientist and Program Manager
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA, U.S.
- Ph.D., Materials Science, University of Minnesota, 1995; Thesis: “Nanoscopic Probes of Surface Instabilities”
- B.S., Physics, The Catholic University of America, 1989
Harvey leads a small R&D group that is trying to create products using nanomaterials at macroscopic lengths (kilometers!).
Advice to Students:
It’s important to have a good foundation in your education: strong math skills and strong writing and speaking skills – scientists and engineers need to communicate what they have learned.
Q: When did you first find that your career path focused on nanotechnology?
Harvey: In graduate school; my doctoral work examined the micro- and nano-mechanical behavior of materials. My first summer as a graduate student I took X-ray Photoelectron spectra on a new material sent to us by a professor at Rice University – a funny little soot that he called C60.
Q: What current nanotechnology applications are you working on?
Harvey: Current research is on low density materials for electrical applications; we look at many different nanomaterials. Right now we are focused on Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs).
Q: What's the most rewarding thing about working with nanotechnology?
Harvey: Having the awareness of (and access to) materials and technologies that are going to be the solution to many environmental, health, and energy challenges.
Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you’ve worked on has positively impacted the world?
Harvey: I have had the pleasure of working with many different scientists and engineers during my academic and industrial careers. Some of those projects including understanding the fatigue behavior of pacemaker leads, developing processes to create better integrated circuits, and building the equipment that makes genetic testing faster and less expensive.
Q: What do you think is the single greatest impact nanotechnology has had on the world thus far?
Harvey: The greatest impact has been reigniting the imagination of scientists and engineers worldwide. Nanotechnology is used in pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and even sports equipment.
Q: Please give an example of what you envision nanotechnology applications leading to in the future.
Harvey: Some of the most exciting applications are those that will enhance the quality of life for people world wide – just a few examples:
- Low cost water purification: 80% of the world’s population lives in an area where there are potential water shortages or potable water shortages (Nature 2010)
- Energy harvesting: Nanotechnology is integral in creating materials that can be used for passive energy harvesting as well as optimizing alternate fuels, and creating low cost, low weight less toxic batteries and fuel cells.
- Medical applications: Nanomaterials are on the same scale length as many fundamental human biochemical and bioelectrical interactions. We can leverage this fact to create systems for drug delivery and in-situ senors.
- Multifunctional materials: Imagine a hospital gown that takes vital biometric information or a t-shirt that is the battery pack for your MP3 player.
Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Harvey: I work primarily as the member of a team; my role as I’ve progressed in my career has moved away from the lab and is now focused on identifying opportunities to create products, communicate ideas with customers and collaborators, and develop intellectual property.
Q: If you work more as a team, what are some of the other areas of expertise of your team members?
Harvey: I work with chemists, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers as well as lawyers and sales staff. Everyone on the team (including legal and sales) has a technical background.
Q: Did your university training help you in your nanotechnology work?
Harvey: Without question; education provides us with the tools to continue learning. The field of nanotechnology is undergoing continuous and rapid change. It’s not anything one reads once or twice in a text book.
Q: Do you have a mentor? Did you in your college years?
Harvey: I have had many mentors during my education and my career. Sometimes mentorship is formal – like an undergraduate advisor or co-op leader. Sometimes mentorship is informal – an experienced colleague or an acquaintance from a technical society who gives you advice. Don’t forget that mentorship can go in multiple directions. Younger engineers and scientists can also give advice and training to the more experienced!
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still focus on nanotechnology applications?
Harvey: Absolutely. Nanotechnology is a very broad field; with some fundamental knowledge you can work on a variety of applications – medical, energy, industrial. It’s never boring.
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?
Harvey: For high school students: Get involved doing science as soon as you can. Perhaps get an internship or part-time job at a small company or at a local university. If that’s not possible, join a science club – a robotic team is always a fun choice.
For college students – internships and co-ops are the keys to getting hands-on experience and finding out what kind of work you like to do.
It’s also important to have a good foundation in your education: strong math skills and strong writing and speaking skills – scientists and engineers need to communicate what they have learned.