Meyya Meyyappan

Chief Scientist for Exploration Technology, NASA Ames Research Center

Meyya Meyyappan

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: In which Nanotechnology technical fields does your work apply best?
Meyyappan:

  • Nanoelectronic
  • Nanosensors and Nanoactuators
  • Nano-Materials
  • Nano Energy, Environment and Safety

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 that was flown to the space station and licensed to a few companies for commercialization.    

Q: What do you think is the single greatest impact nanotechnology has had on the world thus far?  
Meyyappan: 
Nanotechnology has resulted in sensors with high sensitivity and detection limits, composites with exceptional strength to weight ratio to name a few.  But we have not had the so-called killer app yet. Things take time.    

Q:  Over the past decade, nanotechnology has moved out of the lab and is making a real impact in society.  Have you worked on any efforts that helped to commercialize nanotechnology and resulted in new products or processes?  Please provide an example.
Meyyappan: Our patents on nano chemsensors have been licensed by industry and hopefully, there could be some smartphone based sensors in the market in a few years.

Q:  In which areas do you anticipate future commercialization of nanotechnology having the greatest positive impact on the world?Meyyappan:
Perhaps sensors, healthcare,use of nanomaterials in printed and flexible electronics for IoT

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.