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Judy Cha named director of Cornell NanoScale Facility

Judy Cha, Ph.D. ’09, professor of materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering, has been appointed the Lester B. Knight Director of the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF), effective August 21, 2023. Cha is an expert in topological and two-dimensional nanomaterials with quantum properties. She becomes the facility’s ninth director since its establishment in 1977. 

Judy Cha

As the director of CNF, Cha will lead one of the premier nanofabrication facilities in the nation. Each year more than 1000 scientists, engineers and technologists from around the world use the facility’s state-of-the-art instrumentation with the assistance of CNF’s staff of highly trained and creative specialists. 

“CNF is a remarkable resource for the national and international scientific community, with a crucial role to play in the advancement of U.S. semiconductor research and development,” said Krystyn J. Van Vliet, vice president for research and innovation. “Judy is a leader in nanomaterials research and a longtime member of the community that converges around CNF. As a global expert in nanofabrication techniques and research methods, she knows where the field is going. Judy is well positioned to develop a vision with faculty and CNF’s staff and user community, including companies of all sizes, positions and competency needs in the supply network. We know that she will lead an inclusive process to promote access to CNF’s crucial infrastructure for innovators in this broad and dynamic field.” 

In addition to serving a national and international user base, CNF facilitates a wide range of collaborative research at Cornell, providing ready access to nanofabrication and characterization capabilities for individual labs and large-scale research endeavors such as the Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems (CROPPS) and SUPREME: Superior Energy-efficient Materials and Devices – two centers established at Cornell in the past two years that are coordinating transformational research in the fields of digital agriculture and energy-efficient semiconductors, respectively. 

“Advancing our capacity to fabricate novel nanomaterials and harness their unique properties for energy and computing applications is an urgent global and national challenge, as underscored by the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act,” Van Vliet said, referring to the 2022 federal law to reinvigorate semiconductor research and manufacturing in the United States. “Nanotechnology will play a key role in driving technological development and the U.S. economy. Cornell and CNF are poised to make significant contributions, thanks to the longtime support of the National Science Foundation, the expertise of CNF’s leadership and staff, and the talent and dedication of our faculty-led research teams.” 

“I’m excited and honored to take this directorship,” Cha said. “The tools and expertise at CNF have been fundamental to my own work and development as a scientist. So many groups at Cornell and beyond rely on CNF. I look forward to working with Director of Operations Ron Olson, CNF staff and stakeholders to ensure that CNF continually opens the way for new discoveries. I’m especially excited to leverage the unique opportunities created by the CHIPS and Science Act to advance transformative technologies and workforce development.” 

Cha succeeds Christopher Ober, the Francis Norwood Bard Professor of Materials Engineering in the College of Engineering, who has led CNF since July 2016. Ober oversaw the successful renewal of CNF’s position in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) in 2020. 

“We owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Chris Ober,” Van Vliet said. “His energy, self-effacing expert perspective, and ability to forge connections among scientists and innovators in industry and government have made a lasting impact on Cornell’s research ecosystem.” 

Cha received her Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell in 2009. After conducting postdoctoral research at Stanford University, she joined the faculty of Yale University in 2013. She joined the Cornell faculty in 2022. 

In announcing the appointment, Van Vliet also thanked CNF’s external advisory board, faculty, staff, and student and postdoctoral researchers who contributed input to the selection process. 

CNF was established at Cornell in 1977 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It is the first open-user nanofabrication facility of its kind. CNF is supported by a major grant from the NSF and receives additional funding from Cornell and New York State. 

J. Edward Anthony is a writer for the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation. 

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