IAS Newsletter - May 2015 - page 6

In science and engineering, women are not
significantly represented. Why did you choose to
devote to scientific research? What would be your
advice for ladies who want to go into these
I had a lot of guidance and encouragement from my
parents, and I have been very lucky in the
educational opportunities that I have had, in and
out of the classroom. I love the puzzles and
discovery process of science and engineering –
looking for a particular behavior and finding it, or
being puzzled by strange results, and figuring out
the underlying reasons. More importantly, since I
am both scientist and engineer – I think that this
understanding can lead to ways of enhancing our
ability to compute, to communicate, to store
energy, to heal – it’s our way to make a good
difference to the world.
For girls and women who are contemplating
engineering and science – I would just recommend.
You were a PhD student of Prof Chien-Shiung Wu,
a renowned Chinese experimental physicist who is
honored as “The First Lady of Physics Research”.
How did Prof Wu enlighten you in your study?
What do you think is the major drive to pursue
research excellence?
Prof Wu was very devoted to her science. I’m not
sure what drove her to focus on science in the way
that she did, but I think it is natural to try to do the
best you can in any field you try: that is, if you are
going to embark on research, then it’s natural to
seek to do it at the highest level you can. I’ve been
lucky to work with people throughout my career
who also look for the highest excellence in their
work, who teach and inspire me to try even harder.
As co-founder of two successful startup
companies that develop novel materials for
electronic devices, could you share with us your
experience of turning ideas into reality?
It has been one of the best experiences I have
undergone, to be able to work with a colleague and
friend (Prof Angela Belcher from Massachusetts
Institute of Technology), see the value of some of
the science we were working on, and then begin to
gradually work with people and companies to see
that become a reality. We worked with venture
firms who provided the advice and assistance in
hiring on CEOs, personnel, etc. We were very
fortunate that these people are outstanding:
knowledgeable, creative and hardworking. What is
interesting to me was that at least for one company,
the product and the direction of the company was
completely different from anything we imagined
initially. I learned so much, even at the sort of
distant level at which I was involved – I learned
about markets, and strategic alliances – and I also
learned how rapidly the market can change.
Prof Hu with colleagues at Holmdel in her initial time at AT&T
Bell Laboratories.
Prof Hu during her PhD study at Columbia University.
IAS Chatroom
May 2015
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