Addressing Topics of Microscopic and Nanoscale Proportions

The recent "Faculty Meets Faculty Luncheon Series" at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering on September 24 was attended by some 50 professors, staff members, and students, hailing from every academic department in the school. They all gathered to hear two new faculty members—Emilie Dressaire of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Davood Shahrjerdi of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering—discuss their work.

Dressaire, who received extensive media coverage last year for her discovery that mushrooms create their own microclimate in order to facilitate reproduction, explained some of the other research she is undertaking on particles, interfaces and fluids. (She pointed out that her area of focus had led to a wonderful acronym; her group works in the PIF Lab.) She grabbed the attention of everyone (professor and layperson alike) when she observed that a full cup of coffee was very likely to slosh as its bearer walked, whereas a mug of beer was not, thanks to the liquid’s interaction with the foam. That type of interface has important implications for the transport of liquids—well beyond the matter of carrying a beer—and Dressaire went on to discuss what happens when fluids spread on a micro-textured surface, the effects of wetting on fibers, and the issue of micro-channel clogging. (Later in the afternoon, a lively discussion ensued among attendees about how Dressaire’s work might also be applied to designing high-end ornamental fountains.)

Shahrjerdi, a confident and engaging speaker, also met with a receptive audience for his talk on solid-state nanoelectronics as applied to biosensing, energy harvesting, and other areas. (If he was at all nervous that Professor Edward Wolf, author of several well-regarded textbooks on nanotechnology, was in the audience, he gave no sign.) Shahrjerdi explained that not only must the sensors he’s helping develop be sensitive, energy-autonomous, and cost-efficient, they must be highly flexible, so as to be wearable or implantable. At that, Assistant Professor Siddharth Garg pointed out from his seat in the audience that the new iPhone 6 was getting copious bad press for its tendency to bend while being carried in a front pants pocket but that flexible electronics were, in reality, an ingenious idea.

The next "Faculty Meets Faculty” event is scheduled for October 29, and if it promises the same mix of enlightenment, camaraderie, and humor, it’s sure to draw a large crowd.