Q: What problems are you trying to solve?
A: Glasses are everywhere in our daily lives, functioning with excellent optical, electronic, mechanical, and bio-related properties. Yet, glasses are usually brittle; their service lifetime is often capped by mechanical failures. For instance, cracked or broken screens account for 82% of all accidental iPhone4 damages . My research has been mainly focused on understanding the brittleness of glasses and how to make glasses tougher.
How would you describe your research to a first-grader?
If you accidentally dropped a glass cup or an iPad on a concrete floor, what would happen and why? My research is to design glass that is less likely to break, or touch-screen devices like iPad can be used for long time without any scratches on the surface.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I believe that teaching is not just a matter of teaching the knowledge itself; it is furthermore about teaching students how to learn, where to find out what they need to know, and how to use the information they get. In this respect I am inspired by the proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
When you were a child, what was your dream job?
I always wanted to be a physicist. But for some reason, I was selected into the Materials Science Program in college, and have been very happy with it ever since.
Do you have a favorite website or blog?
I don’t particularly like web-browsing, so no favorite website or blog. I do like to listen to National Public Radio (NPR) whenever I have a chance.
What are your five favorite books?
I like reading all kinds of books when I have time, but I’ve never thought about which would be my favorite. Here are a few coming to my mind: “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” by Luo Guanzhong, “The World Is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman, “My life” by Bill Clinton, “Six Crises” by Richard Nixon, and “Angels & Demons” by Dan Brown.
What will be the invention to change the world?
A cheap, robust, and reusable large-scale water purification/desalination system.