Loucas Tsakalakos is a business program manager in the Energy sector, as well as the Director of the Photonics Technology Platform, at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York, USA. He received his BS degree (1995) from Rutgers University, and his MS (1998) and PhD (2000) degrees in materials science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. His expertise is in the heterogeneous integration of thin film and nanostructured materials systems for micro and nano device applications, and also has extensive experience in the characterization of materials. More specifically, his graduate studies focused on the heterogenous integration of ferroelectric/piezoelectric perovskite oxide thin film materials systems for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) applications. He studied and developed the application of a novel process entitled excimer laser liftoff (LLO) to (Pb,La)(Zr,Ti)O3 [PLZT] and related thin films, and also fabricated/tested relevant devices based on this process. The early phase of his studies focused on the use of in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to study the motion of domain walls in bismuth titanate-templated PZT thin films.
Since joining GE Global Research in 2000, Tsakalakos has designed and implemented integrated electronic and sensor systems for defense applications, studied cathode materials for lighting applications, and is a founding team member of GE’s Nanotechnology Program. As a member of this latter team, he was tasked with helping to establish new nanomaterials systems and applications for GE. A significant part of his research within this program was focused on development of nanostructured materials and devices, primarily using nanowires/tubes, working with multi-disciplinary teams both within GE and in collaboration with external partners. Tsakalakos subsequently developed new concepts in nanotechnology-based photovoltaics technologies while leading programs in the area of advanced photovoltaics within GE Global Research’s Solar Technology Platform, with interests both in long-term research on next-generation photovoltaic materials/devices and shorter-term R&D related to engineering of PV modules. The former activities culminated in the demonstration of one of the first silicon nanowire-based solar cell devices (published in Applied Physics Letters), among other research topics. The latter activities related to CdTe PV module engineering were performed while on a bridge assignment to GE Energy, in which he led a team focused on product engineering in preparation for a PV module factory ramp-up.
In May 2012, Tsakalakos was named manager of the Photonics Laboratory at GE Global Research, where he led a team of up to 20 PhD and MS level scientists and engineers developing new photonics technologies for data communications, sensor, imaging, and other applications. This role included mentoring staff and helping them in career growth, providing annual appraisals, interfacing with business customers and technology partners, and developing the technology roadmap and strategy for Photonics across GE. In February 2017 he was named the Technology Platform Director for Photonics & Sensing. In his current role he oversees technology strategy and development in advanced photonics & sensing systems for GE applications, and has focused heavily in the field of Integrated Photonics (from materials to systems) for sensing applications, with an interest in expansion towards Quantum Sensing. In this capacity he leads an internal Sensor Synergy Council, the development and technology insertion strategy via technology catalogs and roadmap definition, and was the CTO of a successful internal sensor solutions startup business from 2017-2018 that was transitioned to Baker Hughes, a GE Company (BHGE).
In September of 2019, and as a result of his long-term engagement with the GE sensing business units, Tsakalakos was promoted to the role of Business Program Manager, in which he oversees the business relationship and the R&D portfolio (multi-$MM) at GE Global Research within the Energy sector. This includes bringing in new project funding, drafting of Statements of Work in collaboration with legal, overseeing the financial performance of the portfolio (spend variance to op plan, PO establishment, invoice/payment issues, etc.), defining technology impact and value on business metrics, working with project leaders and managers to ensure on-time/on-budget and strong technology deliverables for the projects in the portfolio, and interaction with CEO, CTO, and engineering VP level staff to define future areas of strategic research and technology development.
Tsakalakos is a member of Tau Beta Pi (National Engineering Honor Society) based on his undergraduate work in ceramics at Rutgers, and has received various awards within GE Research, including several management awards, the 2007 Micro & Nano Structures Technologies (MNST) Publication of the Year award, and the 2011 MNST External Focus/Customer-Centricity award. Furthermore, he was honored by the ASME in 2005 for his role in organizing symposia in the field of nanomanufacturing and by the IEEE Nanotechnology Council for his work presented at the 2008 IEEE NANO conference on radiation hard nanowire electronics, and his work towards the development of III-V nanowire/pillar solar cells was recognized by the Conference Chair of the 25th EU PVSEC conference held in 2010 in Valencia, Spain, as one of the main developments in the area of Advanced Photovoltaics. In 2016 he received the GE Global Research – Aero-Thermal Technical Excellence Award for applied research in sensor systems for the energy space.
Tsakalakos is the author or co-author of 49 journal, conference proceedings, and book chapter publications, as well as over 52 internal GE publications; has edited one book (on the topic of Nanotechnology for Photovoltaics) and 8 conference proceedings, and also holds 15 U.S. patents, with over 20 pending. Dr. Tsakalakos is an Associate Editor of the SPIE Journal of Photonics for Energy, and has given over 40 invited presentations at various international conferences, workshops, and institutions (over 70 total presentations).
Tsakalakos has also been associated with various technical societies, including the Materials Research Society (MRS) since 1997, where he has presented various oral and poster presentations, co-organized several symposia at MRS Meetings (The Business of Nanotechnology I and II, Advanced Materials Processing for Scalable Solar Cell Manufacturing I and II) and was Meeting Co-Chair of the 2013 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. He was elected to and served on the MRS Board of Directors from 2014-2016, where he was a member of the Finance Committee and led the Audit Committee and the (Strategic) Planning Committee. In the latter role he helped develop a strategic 10 year plan for the Society, and currently is Chair of the MRS Meetings Assessment Sub-Committee. He has also organized numerous conferences on nanotechnology, photonics and advanced photovoltaics at meetings associated with other technical societies, including SPIE and ASME, and has sat on the Scientific Committees of the EU PVSEC, TechConnect, and OSA-related conferences.
Ever since I took the short Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train ride from Berkeley to San Francisco in the Spring of 1997 to present my first talk at a Materials Research Society meeting, I’ve been in love with the MRS. This has been my scientific, technological, and spiritual career home since that day. I fell in love with the diversity of thought, the access to new, diverse colleagues from around the US and the world, and the insights into new research in my field and adjacent fields. This feeling of a strong materials society was further solidified when I attended the 1998 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston together with my professor and lab colleagues. The desire by attendees to learn new topics with depth at the Sunday Tutorials was evident, and the excitement at the Monday morning sessions was palpable and electrifying! The packed house at the Symposium X lectures provided a strong sense of community, as did the deep respect shown to leading materials researchers at the Award Sessions. When I joined the MRS Board of Directors in 2014 that love for the MRS deepened when I saw how well organized, thoughtful, strategic, and egalitarian the Society is at the organizational level. In short, MRS is the most important society for materials research dissemination and networking, and as President of the Society I would work with the MRS members, volunteers, Vice President, Past President, Board of Directors, Committee chairs, and MRS Headquarter Staff to ensure policies and programs are implemented or put in place to continue the expansion of the MRS footprint in materials research.
This is a particularly important time for materials researchers worldwide. We are living in a digital age, in which the importance and impact of materials research, science, and engineering, and physical sciences at large, is less appreciated and understood by society, many corporations, and other scientific/technical disciplines. The major accomplishments that materials research provided to diverse industries such as construction, shipping, energy, and electronics, are becoming less understood and acknowledged. Simultaneously, there are major scientific breakthroughs yet to be achieved in materials that MRS can help to foster, grow, and communicate to the world. To implement this ongoing growth in MRS networking, diversity, and membership, I propose to work with the existing MRS University Chapters to facilitate new members in academic departments that traditionally have had less interaction with MRS, as well as grow new MRS student chapters at universities around the world with the same strategy in mind. I also propose to work with various MRS volunteers to reach out to communities that have traditionally not been involved with MRS yet pursue significant materials research. In this regard I will work with the MRS volunteer network, as well as with specific contacts I have via my diverse engagements in other societies (ASME, IEEE, SPIE, OSA, etc.) to help pull in new members and symposia at MRS meetings. A key aspect of this effort will be to explore collaboration with universities, research institutes, and companies from around the world, as well as to interact with institutions within the US serving underrepresented minorities and women studying in the STEM fields. In this last regard, I will leverage the strong knowledge and contacts of such communities that I’ve gained through serving as reviewer of various national level NSF science & engineering centers. I truly believe there is even more we can do to grow the diversity of our Society, and we will be better for it. Finally, it will be critical to continue to grow and optimize the excellent MRS communications portfolio in order to help spread the word on how and why materials research impacts the world today and how it will do so well into the future.
Materials are at the heart of every technological endeavor and innovation that exists. Without materials, we cannot have engineering solutions that provide value to society. Indeed, without materials we would not be living in the Digital Age described above! One of the critical strategic objectives of MRS is to continue to foster materials research that has a positive impact on the quality of life. In this regard, I propose two major strategic approaches to expanding this MRS strategic mission. The first is to work across the Society to bring in new strategic themes that will help with improvement of the quality of life. A strong example of this is the recent focus of the Society on Sustainability, which has been tremendously successful and positive. Hence, I propose to cultivate new strategic focus efforts such as this that the Society may rally around and showcase in our Meetings. While more discussion will be required, examples may include Information, Food, or Therapeutics. The second approach is to further drive the connection of MRS with industry. Research on its own cannot have a positive impact on the quality of life in society; that research must find its way into commercial solutions and products that members of society may purchase and use. Hence, I propose to further expand the partnership and collaboration with industrial members of the MRS as well as through our Exhibitions and Corporate Partners program. The successful growth of the industrial interaction with the MRS has been evident over the last 5 years or so through the strategic thrust of the MRS Board of Directors, yet we can continue to grow industrial involvement in our symposia, and through iMatSci and other programs, without ever compromising on research/meetings quality.
Finally, as we seek to achieve the strategic goals stated above, the MRS must continue to evolve its communications strategy in the Digital Age. The Society has already undertaken to expand its presence online, its MRS Meeting App, and via MRS TV. This topic also sits at the heart of what MRS, and all scientific societies, will look like and how they will interact with their members in the future. I propose to undertake a study to better understand how new and emerging technologies may be leveraged as novel communications and knowledge dissemination mechanisms for the future of the society. Examples of this include the use Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. The use of Holographic media is another topic that would be explored, as is the use of Artificial Intelligence in the content of our meetings and non-meeting knowledge dissemination. It has become clear over the last decade of the Digital Media meteoric rise that nothing replaces old fashion human contact, interaction, and networking at scientific meetings, but it is also imperative that the MRS seek to better understand these emerging information/communications technologies and how to harness them for optimized interaction with new members and future members of the Society going forward.
I hope you will entrust me with the responsibility to serve the Materials Research Society as President in 2021. I believe I have the experience within the Society, and in my career at the intersection of research and industry, to help the MRS move forward and grow, leveraging the above noted proposals. I will do so in a humble, collaborative, and energetic manner. Thank you for your time and attention!