Professor receives $60,000 nano grant

Linda Coburn

Physics professor Gang Lu received a $60,000 grant from Intel Corporation to support his ongoing research in the field of nanoelectronics.

“It is an important recognition of the work of Dr. Lu because he’s one of the young active researchers in the field of multi-scale modeling of materials,” said Ana Cadavid, physics department chair. “It basically is a recognition of Professor Lu’s contribution on the frontier of this type of work and, of course, that naturally implies that the students that work with him will benefit tremendously from this type of research experience.”

Lu has been teaching physics at CSUN since August 2004. He said his research relates directly to his classes.

“I have taught solid state physics, which is the fundamental physics behind solids. Semiconductors and computer chips are made of solids, so that’s related to my research,” Lu said. “I also taught two computational material science courses. That’s directly related to my research because I am doing simulations and modeling for Intel on this particular project.”

Lu’s grant application was titled, “Multiscale Modeling of Metallic Systems: Selective Applications for Nanoelectronics.”

Lu explained that modeling in this instance means making predictions of new materials that might be used for next-generation computer chips.

Nanoelectronics refers to the size of semiconductor components. “It’s a very, very small scale, so we can pack 100 million components into a chip and thus we can achieve a high speed computer,” Lu said.

The research involves a considerable amount of math.

“We do mathematical simulations,” Lu said. “We don’t really see ‘things.’ We’re basically solving equations.”

It is Intel’s hope that Lu will be able to identify the potential for new materials that can be used in next-generation computers. Once such new material is identified, it could take about 10 years to actually see it used in production.

And that, Cadavid said, is what is very exciting about Lu’s research.

“It’s not just academic work,” Cadavid said. “This has tremendous applications. It’s fundamental work, but it has tremendous application in industrial technology and that is why Intel was interested in funding such work.”

This is not Lu’s first grant. In the four years he has taught at CSUN, he has been named the principal investigator on projects that have received at least $291,000 worth of outside funding, the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects indicates.

ORSP Director Scott Perez said such grants benefit the university in many ways.

“It helps keep faculty members current in the areas of their expertise because they’re going to be doing something fairly cutting edge. Otherwise, the funding agency wouldn’t give them the money,” Perez said.

“A lot of faculty here are very keen on involving students in their research,” Perez said. It provides graduates with a competitive edge, whether they are applying to post-doctoral programs or jobs in the real world.

Perez said the university as a whole benefits because the research the grants fund help to attract better students to the university. That happens, in part, as a result of CSUN faculty members and students going to professional or academic conferences and presenting the results of their research.

The funding CSUN receives from grants and contracts are in addition to the general operating budget provided by the state.

The Intel grant will be used primarily to pay the salary of graduate student Rajiv Uttamchandani, who will be working with Lu. It will also pay for the team to travel to meetings, conferences and other miscellaneous expenses.