Five Questions with Professor Lynn Loo *01: Engineering Solutions through Partnerships

April 3rd, 2014 / Advancement

Professor Lynn Loo *01

In her EQuad laboratory, Lynn Loo is developing lightweight, easily processed, flexible, and often less expensive plastics to replace metals in electronic devices such as circuits and solar panels. At the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, she is advancing that work by forging partnerships with key companies. Loo, who earned her PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton in 2001, is the Theodora D. ’78 and William H. Walton III ’74 Professor in Engineering and a professor of chemical and biological engineering. She also serves as associate director for external partnerships at the Andlinger Center. 

What sort of organizations and institutions is the Andlinger Center partnering with?

I am particularly excited about the relationships the Andlinger Center has established with industry through the Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership, a corporate affiliates program that is administered by the Andlinger Center. The Princeton Environmental Institute, the School of Architecture, and the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Program operated by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs are strong partners in this endeavor. Since the program’s inception about two years ago, PSEG, DuPont, and Lockheed Martin have come on board as members. More recently, Arch(e)wild and Power Survey became the latest companies to join. We look forward to announcing the onboarding of a Fortune 100 company as our newest member later this spring. We are currently in different stages of negotiation to bring several other companies on board.  

What are the benefits of joining forces in this way?

Academic research must be translated into practical applications to impact the energy and environmental arena. Our partnership with industry seeks to accelerate this knowledge transfer and the development of real-world applications. As importantly, the benefits also flow bi-directionally as academic researchers working side-by-side with experienced industry practitioners strengthen a tight and fertile triumvirate of teacher-practitioner-student interactions on campus. To this end, we just recently hosted a retreat that fosters interactions between representatives from member companies and Princeton faculty, students, and postdocs. There were formal talks given by all parties, followed by ample time for discussion and exchange. We also hosted an exercise during which the participants were split into teams to come up with the best approaches for building a house off-grid. Working together, the teams came up with some very creative solutions!

Lynn Loo demonstrates her team's flexible photovoltaic cell.

What do you find most exciting about your research and its potential?

My research straddles both fundamental science and application. In the short term, it is my hope that our work will bring new insights to generate design rules and guidelines that improve efficiencies of electronic and photovoltaic devices. We are working with BASF, for example, to evaluate how to control the crystallization of one of their new compounds for transistor applications. In the long term, we hope that some of the materials and processing technologies being developed in our laboratories will see their way to the marketplace. 

How would you describe Princeton students?

Amazingly talented and voraciously curious. Princeton students truly live by Princeton’s motto, “in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” They have a strong sense of what is right and they want to positively affect the world they live in. I love that they approach their course work and research with this guiding principle, passion, and enthusiasm. They inspire me to be a better mentor and a better teacher. 

What do you hope students take away from your classes?

I am currently teaching MSE 301. It’s an introductory materials science course and is cross-enrolled by sophomores and juniors who are mostly natural and physical science majors or engineering majors, though I have had an economics student and an architecture student take this course in the past. This course teaches students about how structuring within functional materials—across all length scales—affects macroscopic properties. With the broad overview that this course provides, I hope that students gain an appreciation of how important it is to tune the structure development process of materials per application needs. Tangentially, I hope they see that engineering and science, though rigorous, can be quite exciting and need not be boring.

For more information on how you can support the work of the Andlinger Center, contact Jane Maggard, associate dean for development, engineering and applied science, at 609.258.6850.