My research spectrum covers from transistors to retinal neurons, which are basic building blocks of modern electronics and nervous systems, respectively. My Ph.D. thesis work includes the development of a nanowire channel thin-film transistor (TFT), which was the world’s smallest TFT at the time of publication (Im et al., IEEE Elect. Dev. Lett., 2008). In my dissertation, I further explored the use of a similar type of nanowire channel transistors for detection of avian influenza virus (Im et al., IEEE Sensors J., 2011). Another research area in my graduate studies was Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS): I developed MEMS devices for diverse applications such as biological assay patterning (Im et al., Appl. Phys. Lett., 2007), super-hydrophobicity (Im et al., Soft Matter, 2010; Im et al., Langmuir, 2010a), and electrowetting (Im et al., Langmuir, 2010b). From these studies, I acquired various hands-on skills for cutting-edge micro-/nano-fabrication research.
During my postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan, I had worked on a more advanced MEMS device with a neural engineering application. For selective excitation of genetically modified neurons using accurately transmitted light (i.e. optogenetics), I had fabricated neural probes with monolithically integrated optical waveguides (Im et al., IEEE MEMS, 2011; Im et al., IEEE EMBC, 2011; Fan et al., J. Neural Eng., 2013). Those neural probes also have integrated microelectrodes for recording neural activities as a precise tool for neuroscience studies. Prior to this type of research, neuroscientists used to manually attach a chemically-thinned optical fiber onto neural probes. It was a good example showing that MEMS devices can provide an enabling technology to neuroscientists for more accurately controlled experiments. During that time, I realized that micro-/nano-fabrication expertise could contribute even further to neuroscience if micro-/nano-fabrication engineers gain fundamental understandings and direct research experience with a specific topic.