Chen named director of Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center

Zhihong Chen (Purdue University photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Recognized worldwide for two decades of excellence in nanotechnology research, Zhihong Chen has been named the Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of the Birck Nanotechnology Center after serving one year as the center’s interim director. Her directorship becomes effective Jan. 1.

“Dr. Chen has distinguished herself at the highest levels of innovative nanotechnology research while also making an indelible mark as an exemplary educator,” said Theresa Mayer, executive vice president for research and partnerships, who named Chen to the position. “Purdue is fortunate to have someone with her proven scholarship and leadership to take this role and build on Birck’s established excellence in nanotechnology research.”

With over 100 research publications, Chen’s work explores the control and manipulation of novel nanomaterials for nanoelectronic applications, and for the design and fabrication of nanodevices and circuits for various fields of application. Elected a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2022, IEEE cited her qualification for the honor as “contributions to the understanding and applications of low-dimensional nanomaterials.”

Chen joined the Purdue faculty as an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in 2010 and was promoted to professor in 2017. She served as the associate director of research for Birck from 2019 to 2021 and became the center’s interim director at the beginning of 2022.

Chen said she is very gratified to have been selected to lead the Birck Nanotechnology Center.

“I am honored and humbled to accept this responsibility. With the nation’s historic investments in science and technology as well as the strong commitment from the university’s leadership, I am excited and confident that Birck will play an important role in Purdue’s commitment to educating the researchers and technical workforce of tomorrow,” Chen said.

“Birck Nanotechnology Center has one of the largest university cleanrooms in the country, Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory, and advanced characterization facilities. The center will continue enhancing its capabilities to remain a state-of-the-art fabrication and characterization facility that will further drive research and technology innovation and provide a platform for public-private partnership.”

Chen received her bachelor’s degree in physics from Fudan University in 1998 and her PhD degree in physics from the University of Florida in 2003. After two years of postdoctoral research at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, she became a research staff member in its physical science department.

Her research focused on design and fabrication of high-performance, carbon-based devices and circuits. In 2008 she was appointed manager of the Carbon Technology Group at IBM where she led its efforts in evaluating the potential of carbon materials and the development of novel carbon-based technologies for commercial applications.

During her years at IBM, she was recognized for a project that Forbes named to its list of Top Five Nanotech Breakthroughs of 2006. In that year, Chen contributed to IBM’s unveiling of the most complex and highest performance electrical circuit based on a single nanotube, demonstrating the applicability of complementary metal-oxide semiconductor technology and paving the way for the future of computing. That same year, she also was recognized with Industry Week’s Technologies of the Year Award and was named a finalist in the materials category for the World Technology Network’s World Technology Award. In 2007 Small Times named her a finalist in the category Researcher of the Year.

Since joining Purdue, Chen has received the 2012 Intel Early Career Faculty Honor Program Award and the Joel and Ruth Spira Excellence in Teaching Award in 2013. She also was named a Purdue University Faculty Scholar in 2017.

Chen also has served as director of the SRC nCORE NEW LIMITS Center, a multi-university center focusing on 2D materials research. She was the technical program chair for the 2020 Device Research Conference and general chair for the 2021 conference. She also has served as program chair for the International Interconnect Technology Conference since 2021.

Writer/Media contact: Amy Raley,

Source: Zhihong Chen,