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Albert Liao receives SRC NRI Hans J. Coufal Fellowship

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By Charlie Johnson, ECE ILLINOIS
October 23, 2009

  • Albert Liao named the Hans J. Coufal Fellow.
  • Liao has been studying carbon nanotubes.
  • Liao is working under Prof. Eric Pop.

Albert Daen Liao
Albert Daen Liao

ECE graduate student Albert Liao (BS PHYS ‘07, MS ECE ‘08) was recently awarded the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI) Hans J. Coufal Fellowship to continue his current research at Illinois. Liao, working under ECE Assistant Professor Eric Pop, is only the second recipient of the Coufal Fellowship, which is presented to a graduate student working under an NRI sponsored faculty member. The Fellowship was created to honor the memory of Dr. Hans Coufal who founded the NRI and was first awarded in 2007. Included in the award are expenses for Liao’s tuition and fees, a cash stipend, and a $2,000 annual award given to the department.

“As a graduate student, it’s always great to win an award like this because it gives you more academic freedom now that you’re, to some extent, self-funded. There’s also the prestige that goes along with having a fellowship. They always look really good on a résumé,” said Liao. “This one is really nice because it basically takes me all the way to my graduation, and the little bit of extra cash is good too.”

Under Pop, Liao has been researching the behavior of carbon nanotubes under high stress and Joule breakdown, and is currently working on a method of measuring the energy dissipation between a single carbon nanotube and its supporting substrate. Liao hopes to continue studying the role of various substrates on both heat and electrical transport in carbon nanotubes.

"Albert is doing excellent work. This is exactly the kind of extensive research study we need on these structures to enable us to use them for future devices,” said Dr. Jeff Welser, NRI director.

As a graduate student at Illinois, Albert has contributed to four journal papers and five conference presentations in only two years of graduate school. He also spent the summer of 2009 with the IBM Front End of the Line (FEOL) processing group in Hopewell Junction, New York.

“Importantly, he has also mentored two undergraduate students during this time, and participated in a collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” said Pop.

Originally from the Bay area, Liao decided to stay at Illinois to complete his PhD over several California schools.

“When I finished my undergraduate here, I thought there’s no way I’m staying for another five years of Illinois weather. But, the situation here, the professor and the project I would be working on convinced me that this was the ideal scenario. And pretty much from the start until now it’s been a great situation,” said Liao. “I definitely miss fresh seafood, though.”

Given his knack for research, it should come as no surprise that after his graduation, Liao hopes to remain in research, whether it’s in academia or industry.

“I don’t know specifically what I want to do. All I know is that I want to stay in research,” said Liao. “I could continue doing nanotube research, but where I think I’d really like to make my mark is in energy consumption and production and try to help the energy crisis.”

And if where Liao winds up has good seafood, well, that would be alright too

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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