I have been interested in atomic-scale engineering and nanotechnology since the start of my career. I got my start as a teenager working for a NASA project to synthesize carbon-tungsten multi layer diffraction gratings for the collimation of low-angle X-rays for space physics applications. This devices created from this early work were regarded as the best synthesized multi layer structures ever created – the gratings were comprised of only a few alternating layers of tungsten and carbon, each only about ten atoms thick, and yet showed seven Bragg peaks, implying a deeply ordered structure at the nanoscale.

Influence of Process Parameter Variation on the Reflectivity of Sputter-Deposited W-C Multi layer Diffraction Gratings

I next turned to the micro scale – studying sensory perception in simple cellular organisms like bacteria. I developed a means to quantify the behavioral responses of individual bacterial cells.

 Use of a Computer to Assay Motility in Bacteria

Then, while a National Science Foundation predoctoral fellow at Stanford, I focused on the understanding of the three-dimensional development of multi cellular aggregates of bacterial cells, including the biochemical, cellular, and genetic basis of biological pattern formation (such as the propagation of traveling waves in excitable media), and the link between sensory perception, gene expression, and cell movement during morphogenesis.

Two cell-density domains within the Myxococcus xanthus fruiting body
Intercellular C-signaling and the traveling waves of Myxococcus
Propagation of traveling waves in excitable media
  B-Galactosidase activity in single differentiating bacterial cells    
  Spatial restriction of cellular differentiation    

At Harvard and the Rowland Institute for Science (Boston, MA), where I held a dual appointment as a Whitney Fellow, I pioneered studies on the behavior arising from an approximately 300-neuron neural network, in particular focusing on thermo tactic patterns of motility and learning in a simple organism. After I left Harvard to begin my entrepreneurial work, my nascent academic work was later extended by a former colleague, who has since based his entire Harvard career on this area.

Prior to founding Nanosolar, I started a biotechnology consulting practice at Ernst & Young in Palo Alto, where I advised a range of biotechnology clients on a range of issues including science-focused topics such as R&D portfolio management and technology development. As a result of working closely with a wide range of clients, I developed a very broad perspective on the biotechnology and high-technology industries. The genesis of Nanosolar arose by thinking at the boundaries between biotechnology and materials science.

I have a sustained and strong interest in the basis for pattern formation, including both biological self-assembly at the micro scale (the basis for my Stanford Ph.D. work) as well as chemical self-assembly at the nanoscale (the work carried out at Nanosolar). I also has a strong interest in high-dimensional pattern detection, including non-conventional genomic analyses as well as DNA computing.

At Nanosolar, I have focused in part on nanostructured semiconductor precursor materials for use in low-cost solar panel manufacturing. I have been the Principal Investigator (PI) on several substantial grants totaling more than $33MM from various Federal Agencies, including the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense, as well as the California Energy Commission.

An article describing Nanosolar’s pioneering $10.3MM research grant  in low-cost solar cell technologies, sponsored in part by DARPA and the Department of Defense.
An article describing Nanosolar’s successful Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program sponsored by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army
Announcement of highly competitive $20MM grant to Nanosolar by the U.S. Department of Energy.