Recent alumnus Wang awarded CAREER grant
University of South Florida Assistant Professor Michael Cai Wang (MSME ‘14, PhD ME ’18) has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant. As the NSF’s most prestigious award for researchers early in their academic tenure, Wang’s reception of the CAREER award after so recently becoming independent in academia is notable.
Inspired by the work he did with MechSE Associate Professor SungWoo Nam, Wang’s CAREER award will support his nascent group’s work on scalable advanced manufacturing of atomically thin two-dimensional (2D) layered materials. With precision at sub-nanometer scales, this research could allow for scalable manufacturing of 2D materials that could greatly advance U.S. manufacturing and could lead to breakthroughs in many high-technology sectors.
“It is greatly encouraging that one’s research accomplishments and pursuits are being recognized by colleagues in the scientific community as being important and beneficial to society,” Wang said. “Having won this award gives my relatively young research group the confidence to pursue big and bold ideas and tackle grand challenges through our own unique approaches.”
Wang attended Illinois for six years for his MS and PhD, working in Nam’s research group and developing himself for academia. One of the biggest lessons that he learned in his time at MechSE was the importance of the community that it takes to make an academic institution excel. Wang acknowledges that although sometimes less visible, there is a lot of support and teamwork done behind the scenes that makes the research possible.
“During my years at Illinois, I learned to appreciate the tremendous teamwork needed to make an entire academic and research enterprise successful… including each of the staff in MechSE, keeping us on track to graduation and also engaged with the community, making sure everything runs smoothly, and so much more. Chambana has a very special place in my heart and I look forward to seeing all the exciting new developments with MEB and Green Street!”
This CAREER award will support Wang’s work until 2025, providing funding to his lab. In addition to their research, Wang’s group will be working on outreach projects such as developing read-along books for children and engaging with underrepresented middle school, community college, and veteran students.
With the support of this award, I look forward to potential future collaborative opportunities with MechSE faculty who are frontrunners in the field of nanoscale materials, including professors SungWoo Nam, Narayana Aluru, Lili Cai, Elif Ertekin, Harley Johnson, Taher Saif, Sam Tawfick, and Arend van der Zande, as well as faculty affiliated with the various centers on campus such as I-MRSEC and nanoMFG,” Wang said. “I also look forward to utilizing the world-class resources and engaging with the outstanding staff scientists within Illinois’ MNMS, MNTL, and MRL facilities.”