Dr. Donglei “Emma” Fan is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a core faculty member of the Materials Science and Engineering Program of the Texas Materials Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Fan’s research exploits fundamental materials science, physics, and chemistry for innovative design, manufacturing, and applications of materials in robotics, biomedicine, and energy and environmental remediation devices. She is an inventor of the patent awarded “Electric Tweezers” technique that can precisely manipulate longitudinal nanoscale materials in aqueous suspension by combined AC and DC electric fields at a precision of 20 nm in positioning and 0.5 degree in angle under a standard optical microscope. Her team also discovered the effect of light-semiconductor-electric-field interaction that can be applied to realize multimodal reconfigurable nanodevices. Prof. Fan’s research has spurred a series of publications in leading journals, including Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Communications, Science Advances, the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, Physical Review Letters, and Advanced Materials. She is an inventor of eight granted patents, one licensed to a startup, and a few pending patents.
Prof. Fan received two prestigious awards from the National Science Foundation: the NSF Mid-Career Advancement Award in 2022 and the NSF CAREER Award in 2012. She is a Fellow of the Royal Chemical Society (2021), the 2022 Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering Ilene Busch-Vishniac Lecturer, and has been serving as an invited Japan Prize Official Nominator since 2017. Dr. Fan’s work on the bottom-up assembling of artificial nanomotors was included in Science Year by Year, DK Smithsonian in 2017 and selected as the #3 of “10 discoveries that will shape the future in 2014” by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Focus magazine. She received the Texas Health Catalyst Consulting Award in 2020 and was honored as a Recognized Mentor by the Siemens Foundation in 2012. She is an invited member of the Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society, since 2020, and one of 30 young US engineers, invited to attend the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) 2013 EU-US Frontier of Engineering Symposium in France. She is a finalist of the Beckman Young Investigator Award (24 finalists nationwide, 2013), a finalist of the 2015 SXSW Interactive Innovation Award, and a featured scientist by “Woman in Nanoscience” an NSF-supported scientific blog highlighting achievements of woman scientists in the US. She received an NSF graduate student award to attend NEMS summer school at The California Institute of Technology in 2006. Exempted from the National College Examination, she received early admission to the honor program for talented undergraduates at NJU and was awarded the Freshman Scholarship (1995). She won multiple prestigious prizes in academic competitions in physics (both national and provincial), biology (provincial), and mathematics (regional) in her high school and middle school studies.
Prof. Fan received her bachelor’s degree in the Department of Intensive Instruction (DII), a highly selective honor program for talented undergraduate students, from Nanjing University (NJU), two master’s degrees in Materials Science and Electric Engineering, respectively, and a doctorate (2007) degree in Materials Science and Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
Besides science and technology, Prof. Fan enjoys nature, animals, reading, and various art forms. She is much influenced by 19th-century European writers and some German philosophers. She adores classical Asian poetry and also spends her free time playing the piano, painting, and trailing in hills.