Professor(s) of the week: Shiva and Nilima Hullavarad
How did you two meet?
Shiva: When we were pursuing our Ph.D’s, we were going to lunch and we thought why don’t we make this a relationship. It was a challenge, because both our mentors were rivals. So we never knew what each other was doing because of professional secrecy. We lead our own research activities, but we’ve learned how to keep our things separate.
Nilima: My major is in nanotechnology. Which combines synthesis and application of nano-materials.
Shiva: My major is in applied physics and microelectronics.
What do you guys do at the Office of Electronic Miniaturization?
Shiva: Our mission is to miniaturize electronic components. We need to miniaturize electronic equipment to a level to where we can carry them around.
Nilima: They should also be efficient enough.
Shiva: We have to come up with unique solutions in materials, processes, systems, and designs. The research we are doing here is developing these new materials which are capable of operating at a much higher temperature yet provide the same functionality.
What brought you to UAF?
Nilima: A job. (laughs)
Shiva: It’s all about curiosity. We were in Maryland doing research with the U.S. Army lab where we were developing high temperature compatible semiconductors. People would talk about taking a cruise to Alaska, so we said we should see that place. When a job opportunity came, we didn’t think twice. We just booked a flight and then we worked out all the details.
Nilima: We’d heard a lot about Alaska.
Do either of you teach?
Nilima: We don’t teach.
Shiva: But we do mentor students. We’re part of the graduation committee. We basically steer them for their graduation thesis.
What’s your favorite part of Alaska?
Shiva: Nature. If people like the New York skyline, they should like the Alaskan skylines. There’re two different corners: man-made beauty and natural beauty.
Nilima: In college when I was starting geography, we had a lesson about tundra and igloos and I was always curious to go and see that place. Of course, we don’t have any igloos here. (laughs)
What’s a uniquely Alaskan thing you’re working on?
Nilima: The devices we’re working on, like gas sensors, we’re designing them to withstand extreme climates. The first research we did on gas sensors, we published in the Journal of Electro-Chemical society.
Shiva: Where it was selected as a leading microelectronics article by The American Physics Institute, they called it “frontier research”. Think of all the research done at MIT, CalTech, all these leading organizations, ours was the one that got selected.
What are some the applications of nanotechnology?
Nilima: The sensors we’re developing can be used for testing for drunk driving. These materials sense whether alcohol has been consumed. Cops can use this to detect whether someone has been drinking.
Shiva: We can mandate to feed the sensors into the vehicles. Once they smell alcohol on the driver, automatically the driver cannot start the vehicle. They can also have a GPS capability that can automatically prompt the local law enforcement that here is a car with a drunk driver.
Nilima: Another application is to detect if there is a spill. If there is a spill or a leakage in the lab, these sensors can inform us so we can take care of it.