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Typical human hair



arquette assistant professor of

something, it really helps to understand

almost impossible,” says Lee. “And if you

electrical and computer engineering Dr.

it as a molecule. That’s the single build-

were lucky enough to do it once, you

Chung Hoon Lee is going boldly where

ing block.” Further fueling interest is

had to start all over again. It was very

few have gone before. But it’s not the

the awareness that tiny particles of

difficult to replicate your work.”

far reaches of interstellar space. In his

certain substances can prove particularly

Lee was among a few in the field who

fourth-floor lab in Haggerty Hall, he and

sensitive to heat or electric and magnetic

began approaching the problem from the

student assistants explore the microscopic

fields, opening up exciting applications

opposite direction. If you could build a

frontier of molecular electronics, honing

for them in sensors, transistors or

nanostructure with tiny electrode arms,

their ability to apply electric current to

other nanodevices.

you could use mists to drop desired

particles as small as a single molecule. This corner of nanotechnology is

Captivating as it is, nanoscale electronics is not for the faint of heart. About a

particles into place. Then you’d know exactly where to look for them — right

seeing a flurry of research interest these days — in part, Lee says, because oversized insights tend to emerge

in the gap between the


electrodes, ready to


Since coming to


from the study of

Marquette in 2008 from California State University at Fresno,

substances in their smallest form. The

half-dozen years ago, the only way to

Lee has developed the ability to build

advances are akin to what occurred

electrify a tiny particle was to isolate it

these very nanostructures out of metal-

when biologists began to understand

within a massive ensemble, to spend

coated silicon, tens of thousands of them,

human cellular structure in the 19th century.

hours or even days searching for it with

on campus. It’s his contribution to an

“You can try to understand the human


be electrified.

a high-powered microscope and then

effort involving collaborators at Cornell

body as a single object or you can look

to perform the even harder task of

University and Department of Defense

closer. ... You can see how liver cells

positioning electrodes just right to make

grant support.

differ from heart cells and how they

a connection. The difficulty level was off

function differently,” he explains. “The

the charts — like finding a snowflake on

exciting milestones. He has bridged his

same principle applies with nano-

a hockey rink and positioning a Zamboni

gap of between two to 10 nanometers

technology. If you want to understand

to touch it without crushing it. “It was

(about 1/10,000th the diameter of a


In the past year, Lee has passed some

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