Institute for Materials Announces Initiative Leads and Science Advisor

Materials research spans a broad spectrum from fundamental science to engineered products and their societal impacts. Innovation and breakthroughs often come from exchanging ideas, tools, and concepts between scientists, mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists, social scientists, and industry researchers and leaders. Recognizing the critical role of fundamental science and the need for the Institute for Materials (IMat) to be rooted in an inclusive and active community of interdisciplinary researchers, IMat's Executive Director (Professor Eric Vogel, MSE) and Innovation Initiative Leader (Professor Jud Ready, GTRI) have created a new Science Advisor position and a team of Initiative Leaders to shape the future of IMat.

The Science Advisor and Initiative Leads will meet regularly with the IMat Executive Director and Innovation Director. By focusing on Georgia Tech’s strengths and gaps in a particular materials research domain and recognizing overlaps between individual initiative and group activities, IMat will identify emerging research directions and prepare teams to compete for mid- and large-scale, multi-investigator research centers with academic, national laboratory, and industry partners. To increase the campus’ collaborative spirit, Initiative Leaders will work with other Interdisciplinary Research Institutes, campus units, and GTRI in designing and standing up research programs. The Science Advisor and Initiative Leads are the “faculty face” of IMat, and will communicate IMat’s vision and activities to audiences both within and outside of GT.

The roles of IMat Initiative Leads will be announced annually, with existing Initiative Leaders considered for renewal based on their progress in achieving community building goals and their impact on IMat and the materials innovation ecosystem at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Meet the IMat 2021 Science Advisor & Initiative Leads

Science Advisor | Martin Mourigal
Dr. Martin Mourigal is Associate professor in the School of Physics. Mourigal's laboratory focuses on the magnetic properties of quantum materials. His research primarily relies on neutron spectroscopy to probe the exotic states of matter such as spin-liquids, frustrated magnets, and spin-multipolar phases. In addition to his own lab research, Dr. Mourigal is the Co-Director of the Georgia Tech Quantum Alliance, a university wide program on quantum sciences and engineering.

Mourigal plans to deepen his knowledge of the College of Sciences’ materials ecosystem through lab visits, research discussions with faculty and students to identify existing and emerging topical areas such as quantum and topological materials, soft and active matter, and organic photonics/electronics, identify their research needs, and explore stronger connections with the College of Engineering. Mourigal is also interested in continuing to develop the Quantum Alliance along GT’s strengths and as an Institute-level research theme.

Characterization: Remote and Real-time Measurements | Faisal Alamgir
Dr. Faisal Alamgir joined the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2007. He received his BA in physics and mathematics at Coe College and his Ph.D. in materials science and technology at Lehigh University.

Alamgir will lead a team effort to transform campus materials characterization facilities on two fronts: 1) turning passive experiments into in-situ/operando ones by designing alternate sample environments that change samples in real time, and 2) increasing safety and efficiency in characterization spaces via remote operations where feasible to do so, and in cases where remote operation compromises results, finding solutions to alleviate the compromises.

Polymers: Depolymerizable Polymers and Upcycling | Blair Brettmann
Blair Brettmann received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at MIT. Following her Ph.D., Dr. Brettmann was a Senior Research Engineer at Saint-Gobain and a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. She was the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award in 2020, the ACS PMSE Young Investigator award in 2020, and the Ralph E. Powe Award in 2018 and an IUPAC Young Observer in 2019. Her research focuses on linking molecular to micron scale phenomena to processing and multicomponent complex mixtures to enable rapid and science-driven formulation and product development.

Brettmann is dedicated to further raising the quality and profile of polymer research at Georgia Tech by pairing a wide-ranging network with targeted initiatives based on growing research topics. As the Polymers Initiative Leader, she will support the Georgia Tech Polymer network within IMat, while building a stronger network for IMat with polymer faculty. In building the initiatives within IMat, she plans to focus on specific needs and develop programming that will provide immediate value as well as lay the groundwork for long-term strengths. She is well placed to immediately advertise IMat initiatives to a strong network of polymer interested faculty that already exists at Georgia Tech.

Nanomaterials: Devices as Materials | Michael Filler
Dr. Filler is an Associate Professor and the Traylor Faculty Fellow in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. His research program focuses on the synthesis, understanding, and large-scale deployment of nanoscale materials and devices to enable new electronic, photonic, and energy technologies. He has been recognized for his research and teaching with the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Georgia Tech Sigma Xi Young Faculty Award, and CETL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.

Filler will bring together IMat faculty to consider the applications, secure external funding for, and advance the research required to create materials comprised of nanoscale functional devices. A key goal of Prof. Filler’s initiative will be to interface faculty with expertise in synthesis and processing with those targeting specific applications to identify opportunities where nanoscale devices can both solve existing technical challenges as well as open new directions. The intersection of science and engineering required for this work will offer natural opportunities for members of other IRIs and multiple Colleges to interact.

Materials Upcycling: Circularity of Biopolymers | Kyriaki Kalaitzidou
Dr. Kalaitzidou joined Georgia Tech as an Assistant Professor in the G.W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering in 2007. She also holds an adjunct appointment in the School of Materials Science and Engineering. She obtained her Ph.D. in manufacturing and characterization of polymer nanocomposites (PNCs) from Michigan State University.  She also serves as the Strategic Coordinator on circular materials in the Renewable Bioproducts Institute (RBI) which provides a natural conduit for increased collaboration between RBI and IMat.

Kalaitzidou believes that the circularity of materials is an area where Georgia Tech faculty from across Units can have a tremendous impact both in terms of fundamentals, such as the design of new polymers for recyclability, and applied research, such as scalable processes for sorting and re(up)cycling of end-of-life plastics, composites and other materials. Additionally, this strategic theme allows great opportunities for technological innovations that provide positive societal, economic and environmental impacts.

Functional Inorganic Materials: C.H.I.P.S. Initiative - Electronic and Ferroic Materials | Asif Khan
Dr. Asif Khan is Assistant Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Khan’s group conceptualizes and fabricates solid state electronic devices that leverage interesting physics and novel phenomena in emerging materials (such as ferroelectrics, antiferroelectrics and strongly correlated/quantum materials) to overcome the “fundamental” limits in computation and to address the most pressing challenges in the semiconductor industry and the computing paradigms. His work led to the first experimental proof-of-concept demonstration of the negative capacitance–a novel physical phenomenon that can lead to ultra-low power computing and memory platforms by overcoming the fundamental "Boltzmann Limit" of 60 mV/decade subthreshold swing in field-effect transistors.

The CHIPS Act for America has designated microelectronics as a national R&D priority. As an Initiative lead, Khan’s primary goal will be to leverage the unique strengths of Georgia Tech in the broad area of electronic materials and create strategic initiatives in terms of team building and connecting to other players and the government agencies. In doing so, the Institute will be primed for taking up a leadership role in the upcoming large funding opportunities in electronic materials.

Energy Materials: Materials for Energy Storage | Matt McDowell
Dr. Matthew McDowell is Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering. McDowell’s research group focuses on materials for energy storage and electronics applications. His group uses in situ experimental techniques to probe how materials inside batteries transform and degrade, and this knowledge is then used to guide the engineering of materials for breakthrough new devices.

Investment in battery research and technology is rapidly growing, and Georgia Tech’s strong energy storage research community is well positioned to make an impact in the development of next-generation energy storage devices. McDowell foresees that IMat and the Strategic Energy Institute (SEI) could both play important roles in enabling the formation of an energy storage initiative that will bring the community together and provide improved external advertisement of Georgia Tech’s capabilities for energy storage research.

Condensed Matter: Materials for Quantum Science and Technology | Chandra Raman
Dr. Chandra Raman is Professor in the School of Physics.  His research has two thrusts. The team utilizes sophisticated tools to cool atoms to temperatures less than one millionth of a degree above absolute zero. Using these tools, they explore topics ranging from superfluidity in Bose-Einstein condensates to quantum antiferromagnetism in a spinor condensate.  The secondary lab effort involves partnering with engineers to build cutting edge atomic quantum sensors on-chip with potential for scale-up.

Raman envisions the development of “World-Ready” quantum systems, including room temperature quantum information processing and hybrid platforms combining quantum systems with MEMS and integrated photonics. Raman will seek to connect the vast photonics and MEMS expertise at Georgia Tech with other researchers in the materials domain, both at GT and GTRI, to explore novel science and engineering approaches to address the challenges of growing quantum information systems to industrial scale.

Structural Materials: Materials Laboratories for the Future | Aaron Stebner
Dr. Aaron Stebner works at the intersection of manufacturing, machine learning, materials, and mechanics. Prof. Stebner joined the Georgia Tech faculty as an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering in 2020.

In order to create a more cohesive “materials voice” and more effectively pursue resources and funding, Stebner proposes the development of plans for facilities that are based upon future-focused, GT-specific identity assessments. To drive successful outcomes, each plan will be built upon 2-pronged, identity-driven mission statements that clearly define: 1) how the facility enables future research that is not possible with today’s facilities and 2) why/how GT is uniquely positioned to host and operate the facility.

Functional Organic Materials: Polymer Electronics and Photonics | Natalie Stingelin
Previously a Professor of Functional Organic Materials at the Department of Materials, Imperial College of London, Dr. Natalie Stingelin joined Georgia Tech in 2016 as Full Professor. Her research focuses on the broad field of functional plastics, including organic electronics; multifunctional inorganic/organic hybrids; smart, advanced optical systems based on organic matter; and bioelectronics.

Soft Matter research could considerably profit by being interweaved with hard materials activities — with many synergies and massive untapped possibilities for IMaT. Stingelin proposes teaming with MSE’s SoftBio Topical Working Group, Georgia Tech’s Polymer Network, the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics and the Renewable Bioproducts Institute to create a unique materials research environment that is capable to work across traditional material classes and raise the recognition of the Materials innovations at Georgia Tech to the international stage.

- Christa M. Ernst