Molecular engineer Paul Nealey elected to National Academy of Engineering

Prof. Paul Nealey has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. 

The academy honors those who have made outstanding contributions in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology or have made major advancements in traditional fields of engineering.

Nealey, one of 99 new members elected this month, was cited “for the development of directed self-assembly of block copolymers as an industrially significant process for nanolithography.”

The Brady W. Dougan Professor in Molecular Engineering, Nealey is one of the world’s leading experts on patterning organic materials—creating minuscule patterns of structure and composition in materials at the nanometer-length scale. Such patterning is essential for many types of devices, including electronics.

He is particularly known as a pioneer in a technique to make nano-sized structures called directed self-assembly, which is becoming very important in microelectronics to create patterns for integrated circuits, for example.

Atoms and molecules at the nanoscale level can be convinced, under the right conditions, to assemble themselves into shapes. Nealey’s work focuses on understanding the rules that govern this behavior, which allows scientists to find the right cues to form the structures we want—hence the term “directed” self-assembly.

Work in his lab stretches from making tiny nano-lenses for sensing and imaging to how to make some of the world’s thinnest wires. It’s not just electronics, either; he has also worked with a veterinary ophthalmologist on tissue engineering for prosthetic corneal devices.

Nealey holds 14 patents and is the author of more than 180 publications. He is also a fellow of the American Physical Society.