Department of Chemistry and IME welcome Jiwoong Park to faculty

The University of Chicago’s Department of Chemistry and Institute of Molecular Engineering have jointly appointed Jiwoong Park as a faculty member. He will start the position on July 1, 2016.

Park is currently an associate professor in chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, where he is an expert in the emerging field of two-dimensional layered materials. These are no ordinary materials—they are on the scale of one to a few atoms in thickness, and include electrically conductive graphene, insulating hexagonal boron nitride and semiconducting transition metal dichalcogenides such as molybdenum disulfide.

While these materials are relatively new, they have become the target of worldwide research activities and have potential in the development of novel electrical, optical, biological and mechanical devices, including flexible electronics and energy conversion.

Viresh Rawal, chair of the chemistry department, spoke highly of Park’s accomplishments and skills, describing him as “an exceptional scholar entering the prime of his career, and his addition will greatly strengthen the materials programs in chemistry and IME. His research has great promise for the development of atomic-scale devices, such as 2-D semiconductors and nanotransistors.”

Rawal envisions additional future collaborations between the chemistry department and IME, stating that, “his chemistry colleagues are interested in both fundamental and translational aspects of problems,” which meshes well with IME’s goals.

Park’s work will closely align with IME’s mission of applying molecular-level research in novel and creative ways. Said Park: “we are excited to generate fully functional integrated circuits based on our approaches, which will be flexible, foldable and deployable in environments that are foreign to conventional circuits, such as air in high altitude, water or inside living organisms.”

Park is IME’s first joint appointment with another University department. IME’s Dean and Founding Pritzker Director Matthew Tirrell said, “his work creates a bridge both between IME and chemistry, but also between different directions of work within IME—quantum materials on one hand, new devices on the other hand.”

Collaborative interest

IME materials scientist Supratik Guha expressed his interest in collaborations with Park.

“Professor Park’s expertise in two-dimensional, atomically thick materials really completes the world-class materials capabilities that we are developing at Argonne National Laboratory and IME for quantum, neuromorphic, sensing and energy applications,” Guha said.

“While I research materials that are a bit thicker than those that Professor Park does, I am looking forward to working with him on new materials discovery.”

David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor in Spintronics and Quantum Information, and deputy director of IME, also looks forward to future collaborations.

“Park’s abilities to precisely design nanostructures at the atomic level offer exciting pathways to engineer new families of quantum materials with novel electronic and optical properties,” Awschalom said. “This complements the research of our faculty who employ a variety of experimental techniques aimed at investigating the quantum mechanical properties of matter, and exploring new ways to build quantum machines.

“We look forward to launching new joint research projects, including the development of two-dimensional quantum state arrays, hybrid quantum electronic structures and quantum devices with unique optoelectronic properties.”

Park was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, and finished his undergraduate degree in physics at Seoul National University in 1996. He received a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. After three years of an independent postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University’s Rowland Institute, he started his research group at Cornell University in 2006. He has received the NSF CAREER award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. He currently leads two multi-investigator research teams, each funded by the National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program and Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program.

“At the start of my graduate work, there was huge excitement and development in nanoscience, and that was a strong pull,” Park said. “Then you quickly realize that we cannot go anywhere with nanoscience or nanotechnology without solving key materials problems. In the last five years, I steered my research direction from characterization-focused research to more fundamental materials science. I am very glad that we made that change, and I look forward to taking my research to the next level at UChicago.”