3° with Kim Lewis

by Gabrielle DeMarco on March 5, 2012

Kim Lewis is a professor in the Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, who recently received a prestigious NSF CAREER Award. We ask Kim about her work:

Q: Your research has a strong focus in molecular and nano electronics. Why are you interested in helping perfect these mini machines?

A: I strongly believe that nano electronics and molecular electronics can benefit society in a number of ways. For example, understanding how single molecules conduct electricity can stimulate research in medicine to promote new drug delivery techniques and chemical sensors to detect toxic gases in hazardous environments and in warfare.

Q: What made you decide to become a physicist?

A: Initially, I wanted to become a pediatrician and then an electrical engineer, but my goal changed when I was a junior in high school and met an extraordinary physics teacher. She was one of the few teachers in my high school with an advanced degree in science. One day she allowed me to assist her with a physics lab about the photoelectric effect.  After working with her for several physics labs and learning how to test different hypotheses using the scientific method, I ditched the idea of being a medical doctor and engineer. Being a physicist and exploring the science was much more fun!

Q: You grew up in beautiful New Orleans, Louisiana. It seems that city had a huge impact on you as an individual, inspiring you to establish the New Orleans Louisiana Minority Opportunities via Educational Research in Science (NOLA MOVERS). What lead you to create this program? What do you hope it will achieve?

A: Yes, the city of New Orleans, its residents, and the culture are very dear to me.  It is because of the education I received in the public schools and historically black colleges and universities in New Orleans that I was able to become a physicist. So of course as soon as I was able to, I wanted to extend any opportunities I could to the students and schools in the area who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. I was in Louisiana during those horrific days following the storm. I visit New Orleans often and colleges are still rebuilding their science programs. NOLA MOVERS is an excellent way to promote students to continue their interest in science and pursue an advanced degree. My hope is that NOLA MOVERS will help increase the number of minorities pursuing PhDs in science. I will continue to do as much as I can towards this effort.

Q: When you aren’t characterizing nanostructures, what do you do for fun?

A: Currently, I’m practicing meditation techniques and Nia, which is a sensory-based movement practice.  However, I am very interested in martial arts.  So I’m seeking opportunities to learn how to use Tai Chi weapons. I practiced Tai Chi for several years before joining RPI.