Alumnus Profile: Michael McGehee, Ph.D. 1999

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

UCSB Materials alum Michael McGehee is a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University where he is also the Director of the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics (CAMP). CAMP was founded to develop longer-lasting solar cells that compete with fossil fuels on cost efficiency. Additionally, Michael is a Senior Fellow of Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy (PIE), which “serves as the hub of a broad and deep network of experts from various science, technology, behavioral, and policy disciplines who are working independently and collaboratively to solve the world's most pressing energy problems.”

Michael’s research interests cover organic electronics, patterning materials at the nanometer length scale, and developing materials for renewable energy and sustainability applications – all of which he and his research group achieve via the investigation and advancement of solar cells. Michael believes the path to an efficient, cost-effective solar cell is to harvest high- and low-energy photons in tandem, with the challenge being the cost. Michael and his group also probe the issue of solar stability, primarily determining what causes solar cell degradation and developing solutions to prohibit degradation. 

Making a distributed feedback laser with polymers while he was a graduate student was an early career highlight for Michael. The feedback laser was his first important discovery, and it launched his career. He thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of making and characterizing the laser. One of Michael’s later career highlights was winning a large grant from Saudi Arabia to create the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics. As a result of the grant, he had the opportunity to work with a great team to accomplish ambitious research goals, including the launching of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Michael is also pleased that he has been able to help his students found ten startup companies.

Michael’s advice to future UCSB Materials Ph.D. students is to savor every minute in Santa Barbara. He encourages students to take advantage of every opportunity to interact with the highly talented people in the Materials community and to enjoy living in such a wonderful place. 

Michael is the 2008 recipient of the Mohr Davidow Innovators Award and the 2007 recipient of the Materials Research Society Outstanding Young Investigator Award. He serves as a technical advisor to Next Energy, PLANT PV, Plextronics, and Sinovia.

Michael received his Ph.D. in Materials in 1999 from UCSB while working for Nobel Laureate Alan Heeger. Prior to coming to UCSB, Michael attended Princeton University, where he graduated with his B.A. in Physics in 1994. Michael joined the faculty of Stanford University in 2000 after conducting postdoctoral research at UCSB in the laboratories of Galen Stucky and Brad Chmelka.

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