Qian Chen, assistant professor in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois, made Forbes’ list of “30 Under 30” for 2016 in the Science category. For its fifth annual celebration, the publication selected “600 game changers, movers, and makers in 20 fields—all under the age of 30.”
Qian Chen received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois in 2012. Her doctoral research focused on developing new “bottom-up” strategies for materials construction. She was among the first to encode multiplexed information into colloids in a “Janus” or “patchy” fashion and to assemble them into functional materials. Prior to joining the MatSE faculty, Chen was a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Chen research group works on constructing artificial materials in a way that they can mimic the features of biological matter. The group’s focus is on “the new paradigm of design, fabrication, imaging, and fundamental science of active soft matter—the artificial materials analogous of smart living systems that can self-replicate, self-regenerate, eventually evolve in structure and function with ever-changing external environment.” Chen takes on the role of a photographer to “videotape” how nano-sized objects move and transform in their native liquid environment. “Previous photographers can go down to hundreds of nm, but we are going for nanometer, smaller even than the size of most proteins,” Chen said.