Barry Rand joined the faculty on July 1st as Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and the Andlinger Center. Previously, he was a senior researcher at the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre vzw in Leuven, Belgium, where his work focused on the optimization and feasibility of organic solar cells. Professor Rand received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Princeton in 2006. He will teach ELE 557/ENE 557 Solar Cells: Physics, Materials and Technology in the spring semester 2014.
What attracted you to the field of electrical engineering?
I grew up at a time when the computer and internet were just becoming available at the consumer level. I had a bit more exposure to this owing to the fact that my father worked at IBM on supercomputers (he also is an electrical engineer). I think that growing up in this environment was the main driving force toward my career path.
How does your work relate to the mission of the Andlinger Center (to develop solutions to ensure our energy and environmental future)?
My main research area concerns solar cells made from thin film semiconductors. While these types of solar cells are currently in the minority in terms of installed capacity (solar cells based on (multi)crystalline silicon account for well over 90% of the market), they possess enormous potential for rollout on a large scale. They would make solar power a meaningful part of the world’s energy production strategy. My work explores ways to make thin film solar cells better in terms of performance, reliability, and availability of materials.
How does your work complement the work of your colleagues in the engineering school?
I think my work complements that of several colleagues in the engineering school. Those include Professors Antoine Kahn (ELE), who works on understanding the electronic properties of thin film heterojunctions which are critical for device performance, Lynn Loo (CBE/ACEE), who works toward understanding how material structure relates to electrical functionality of organic semiconductor thin films, Jim Sturm (ELE/PRISM), who studies heterojunction solar cells, Craig Arnold (MAE/PRISM), who works with low-cost transparent conductors needed for all optoelectronic devices, Dan Steingart (MAE/ACEE), who develops new energy storage technologies, and Sigurd Wagner (ELE), who works on thin film silicon solar cells, large-area displays, electrotextiles, and electronic skin.
What impact do you hope to have on the field of electrical engineering?
I hope that the increased understanding I bring toward thin film electronic devices is able to find its way into new technologies and applications. For me, as an engineer, seeing my work result in real-world applications is the ultimate reward.
What will you bring to the classroom that is unique?
Since the field demands interdisciplinary thinking, I hope to teach students how to synthesize knowledge from across fields to address fundamental problems. Having been a graduate student at Princeton myself, I know Princeton students to be highly self-motivated and eager to learn, so I look forward to experiencing this now as an instructor.
What advice do you have for Princeton engineering students?
At Princeton there is such diverse research, so I would say try your best to expose yourself to it in as many ways as possible. It could be by attending seminars or simply by approaching someone and asking them to explain what they do, and if interested seek them out for undertaking some independent research. By doing so, you will learn about new topics and maybe even find one that you didn’t know held interest for you.