University of California, Santa Cruz professor named director of Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center

October 4, 2011

Ali Shakouri

Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A leading researcher advancing efforts in thermoelectric energy conversion at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been selected as the new Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of the Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue University's Discovery Park.

Ali Shakouri, a professor of electrical engineering at UCSC, succeeds James Cooper, who has served as Birck's interim director since March 2010 when former director Tim Sands was appointed provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Purdue.

Shakouri's appointment is effective Oct. 1.

"Professor Shakouri is an internationally recognized leader in his areas of specialization in the research field of nanotechnology," said Alan Rebar, executive director of Discovery Park and senior associate vice president for research at Purdue. "We are very pleased and excited to welcome him as the director of Birck, one of our cornerstones for interdisciplinary research here at Purdue."

In addition to leading the Birck Nanotechnology Center, Shakouri will serve as professor of electrical and computer engineering.

"Birck Nanotechnology Center has propelled Purdue into the top tier of this exciting research field in just a few short years," Shakouri said.

"The facility has been a major resource for recruiting some of the best and brightest faculty members and researchers to advance how nanotechnology can improve our lives. What an honor and a privilege to be joining an internationally renowned research university like Purdue and to lead one of the most advanced nanotechnology facilities on a university campus anywhere in the world."
Shakouri has focused his research on nanoscale heat and current transport in semiconductor devices, high-resolution thermal imaging, micro refrigerators on a chip and waste-heat recovery. He received his master's and doctoral degrees from the California Institute of Technology in 1995 and his bachelor's degree in engineering from Telecom ParisTech in France in 1990.

He directs the Thermionic Energy Conversion Center, a multiuniversity collaboration including Purdue that is working to improve direct thermal to electric energy conversion technologies. This project is funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Sciences Office at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA.

Project researchers are exploring the capacity of nanostructured materials to channel the random jostling of heat energy into the orderly flow of electricity. The research has applications in advancing technology for electric-powered ships and other electric vehicles.

A part of the Quantum Electronics Group at UCSC, Shakouri also is working with colleagues in engineering and social sciences on a new sustainability curriculum. He initiated an international summer school on renewable energy sources in practice. Shakouri received the Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering in 1999, a National Science Foundation Career Award in 2000 and the UCSC School of Engineering FIRST Professor Award in 2004.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center, an 187,000-square-foot facility, involves more than 300 faculty, staff and graduate students from 36 schools and departments at Purdue, advancing research in nanoscale science and engineering with applications in areas such as health care, energy, computer technology and food safety.

Cooper and electrical and computer engineering professor Richard Schwartz served five years as Birck's first co-directors during the $58 million facility's design, construction and first year of operation. Sands, who joined the Purdue faculty in 2002, succeeded Cooper and Schwartz in 2006 and served until his Purdue provost appointment in April 2010.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center is named for Michael and Katherine (Kay) Birck of Hinsdale, Ill. The Bircks contributed $30 million for the building, and Michael is a Purdue alumnus, a member of Purdue's Board of Trustees and chairman of Naperville, Ill.-based Tellabs Inc.

The Scifres Nanofabrication Lab of cleanrooms at Birck is named for Purdue alumni Donald and Carol Scifres, who donated $10 million for the building. Alumni William B. and Mary Jane Elmore provided $2 million toward the center's William and Mary Jane Elmore Advanced Concept Validation Laboratory.

The facility is a cornerstone for Discovery Park, Purdue's $750 million hub for interdisciplinary research and home to established centers focusing on endeavors ranging from nanotechnology, biosciences and sustainability to oncological sciences and health-care engineering.
Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Sources:  Alan Rebar, 765-496-6625,

                  Ali Shakouri, 765-496-6105,