Prof. Steven Koester to Lead Minnesota Nano Center Starting Summer 2021

Prof. Steven Koester has been appointed the new director of the Minnesota Nano Center (MNC). The appointment will be effective July 1, 2021, and Prof. Koester will succeed Prof. Stephen Campbell, the current center director.

Steve’s Training and Experience

Steve brings to the position nearly 30 years of expertise in nanoscience and nanotechnology. His connection with, and experience in the area goes back to his days as a master’s student at the University of Notre Dame in the early 1990s, when he was first introduced to nanofabrication, patterning ultra-small gold dot arrays using a technique known as electron-beam lithography. Later as a doctoral student at the University of California at Santa Barbara, he continued his research by using nanofabrication to create ultrasmall “quantum wire” devices. After earning his doctoral degree, Steve worked as a postdoctoral research associate, and later as a research staff member with IBM. Some of the projects he worked on while at IBM include developing transistors with enhanced operation based upon strain engineering, and high-speed germanium photodetectors for use in optical communication links.

Steve’s breadth of experience is aptly suited to the position. He has investigated electronic, photonic, spintronic, and biosensing technologies, and a range of semiconductor materials systems including silicon (Si), III-V compounds, complex oxides, and two-dimensional (2D) materials. He has worked in small scale research facilities where samples were processed one at a time using specialized equipment, as well as large industrial scale labs where batches of 12″ diameter silicon wafers (think of a medium pizza) are processed using fully automated robotic systems. He has closely engaged with the MNC over the last 10 years, and has a keen understanding of its resources, facilities, and operations.

Prior to his appointment as director, Steve was, and continues to be, a co-principal investigator on the NSF Midwest Nano Infrastructure Corridor (MINIC) with the center’s current director Prof. Stephen Campbell. He is entrusted with the task of developing a processing infrastructure for 2D materials (such as graphene and phosphorene), and building a user base for these emerging materials platforms.

Steve has also organized 4 summer schools on 2D materials in collaboration with Prof. Tony Low. These well-attended and positively-reviewed schools have offered lectures from world-renowned leaders in 2D materials research, as well as hands-on demo components.

Steve’s Vision for the MNC

Steve is keen that the MNC support innovations in biotechnology: “I believe the Minnesota Nano Center is well positioned to play an important role in enabling nanotechnology-based solutions for infectious diseases, as well as many other critical healthcare-related issues.”

Steve intends to continue expanding the role of the MNC as a world-class nanotechnology facility, which is a primary enabler for research innovation both locally and globally. A strong proponent of developing a proactive vision, he plans on working and interacting with other University facilities and institutes, as well as other nanofabrication facilities across the country to ensure the competitiveness of the MNC, and secure its dynamic capability as a center that is ready to enable the next big idea. In particular, he is looking to expand the nanoscale biotechnology offerings of the center, an important capability in the context of the critical need for technology related to diagnosis, testing and treatment in the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, recognizing that it is critical to identify and work in accordance with long term trends, Steve is keen that the MNC make a foray into quantum information technology; he envisions the center as a place where materials and infrastructure can be shared and developed so faculty successfully engage in quantum technology research and development.

Sharing his excitement about the potential capabilities of quantum technology, Steve says: “Over the next 20 years, advancements in quantum technology could allow us to tackle scientific problems that are beyond the reach of conventional computers; it holds the promise of breakthroughs in medicine, biology, security and communications.”

Steve will hold the title of director designate and work alongside current MNC director Prof. Stephen Campbell during the course of the leadership transition; Prof. Campbell will continue as director through June 30, 2021.