Oliver Brand, a professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been named executive director of the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN), one of nine interdisciplinary research institutes (IRIs) at Georgia Tech.
In his new post, Brand leads an IRI that unites a wide range of faculty, research centers and shared-user laboratories working in the complementary fields of electronics and nanotechnology. This combination of infrastructure and interdisciplinary research activity seeks to fortify Georgia Tech’s expertise in microsystems, advanced semiconductors, photonics and photovoltaics, electronics design, microelectronics packaging, and systems integration, while stimulating new and emerging application areas in biomedicine, energy, and nanomaterials.
“I view my most important task as that of enabling our faculty – maximizing their research involvement opportunities and prospects,” said Brand, who was awarded the executive position after a nationwide search. “IEN’s job is to help enhance interdisciplinary research at Georgia Tech, and at the same time promote industry-sponsored projects that offer opportunities to develop applications and products in electronics, nanotechnology and related fields, while accelerating new discoveries into the marketplace.”
Interdisciplinary research institutes (IRIs) are inclusive units that help connect and support Georgia Tech’s 200-plus research centers and laboratories. They extend across college, department and laboratory boundaries to help faculty and staff work with both industry and government on basic and applied research programs. IRIs provide critical research infrastructure, create and utilize novel research laboratories, interact with students, and collaborate with other research partners including corporations, universities and research institutes.
Each IRI is dedicated to one of Georgia Tech’s core research areas. Besides electronics and nanotechnology, Georgia Tech IRIs focus on bioengineering and bioscience; energy and sustainable infrastructure; manufacturing, trade and logistics; materials; national security; people and technology; renewable bioproducts; and robotics (see www.research.gatech.edu/institutes).
“In addition to promoting collaboration and new research, I believe IEN should be forward-looking and help define future research grand challenges,” Brand said. “On the one hand, we need to react quickly and effectively to requests for research proposals coming in to us, and on the other hand, we need to be proactive by seeding concepts that can be used to generate future calls for proposals.”
Brand received his Ph.D. from ETH Zurich in Switzerland in 1994. He did postdoctoral research at Georgia Tech from 1995-1997, and then returned to ETH Zurich as a lecturer and deputy director of its Physical Electronics Laboratory. He came back to Georgia Tech in 2003 as a faculty member in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, gaining tenure in 2007 and becoming a full professor in 2009.
“Professor Brand is committed to seeding and growing new interdisciplinary and industry-sponsored research efforts and working closely with faculty and sponsors to define an electronics and nanotechnology roadmap for the future,” said Stephen E. Cross, Georgia Tech’s executive vice president for research. “In addition, he is wholeheartedly dedicated to positioning Georgia Tech as the home of the nation’s leading electronics and nanotechnology thought leaders.”
As IEN’s executive director, Brand oversees some 60 staff members, and shared-user research facilities that include two major buildings and more than 200 micro/nanoelectronic fabrication and characterization tools in multiple cleanrooms and laboratories (see www.ien.gatech.edu). The IEN and its associated research centers support the work of more than 200 faculty members from 10 academic schools, as well as the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).
Brand’s own area of research focuses on micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS. MEMS is a complex field that spans a number of traditional engineering disciplines including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering, along with physics and chemistry. This interdisciplinary work, he said, helps him appreciate the broad spectrum of research performed under the IEN banner.
Though directing IEN will consume much of his time, Brand said, he will continue to direct a research group and expects to teach some courses as well.
“The research enabled by IEN has the potential to revolutionize medicine, help protect the environment, enhance homeland security, and provide fresh approaches in energy creation and storage,” he said. “It can also improve the size, performance and effectiveness of devices and systems used in many other traditional consumer and industrial applications worldwide.”
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