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Making a mark with materials

Zakya Kafafi, adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering, was recently named deputy editor for chemical, physical and materials sciences, and engineering of Science Advances, an online, open-access offshoot of Science magazine that will post original papers and review articles weekly.

Science Advances will publish the crème-de-la-crème as far as scientific quality goes,” says Kafafi, who is also a core faculty member of Lehigh’s Center for Photonics and Nanoelectronics.

“One of our goals is to include papers that are really interdisciplinary in nature. We also want to create some excitement among new scientists, and give them a vision of what they can do to change the world.”

Kafafi, author of 235 journal articles and several book chapters, has done pioneering work in organic optoelectronic materials and devices, leading to applications in flat panel displays and solid state lighting. She has earned an Edison Patent Award from the Naval Research Laboratory for inventing a method of patterning electrically conductive polymers and an R&D 100 Award for inventing a cryogenic link that moves vertically and rotates in a vacuum at very low temperatures.

In a collaboration with Filbert Bartoli, department chair of electrical and computer engineering; Ph.D. candidate Beibei Zheng; and Qiaoqiang Gan ‘10 Ph.D., assistant professor of electrical engineering at SUNY-Buffalo, Kafafi is studying metallic plasmonic nanostructures that are integrated within organic solar cells to improve their efficiencies.

Kafafi, a Fellow of the Materials Research Society, began her career doing research in low-temperature spectroscopy and then organic electroactive materials and organic light-emitting diodes.

“In the 1990s,” she says, “there were no flat panel displays or smartphones. It has been very rewarding to see the impact of the science and research I was working on.”

At the Naval Research Lab, where she worked for more than 20 years, Kafafi founded and directed the Organic Optoelectronics section. From 2007 to 2010, she served as head of NSF’s Division of Materials Research.

“NSF has a policy that allows you to devote one day a week to research,” says Kafafi. “That’s 52 days a year, and if you add in weekends, you can get some serious work done.”

Story by Chris Quirk