The lure of new materials: ASU welcomes new physics faculty


Dominique Perkins

Arunima Singh joins ASU as one of the Department of Physics' newest associate professors. Born in a small farming village where superstition was very much the order of the day, Singh was inspired by her father to pursue a career in science. He taught her to approach things scientifically: to observe the world around her and gather evidence; to look for proofs. “Science is a school of thought,” he told her.

Singh obtained her undergraduate degree at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in India and then went to Cornell to pursue her doctorate in materials science and engineering. After Cornell, she was accepted as a postdoctoral associate at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg and later at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Singh’s research began in metallurgical and materials engineering, and it centers on accelerating materials discovery and using computer simulations to explore synthesis and applications for nanomaterials.

Discovering new materials is an incredibly exciting prospect for Singh, and she has a constant eye for the possibilities in their use. Two-dimensional materials such as graphene — which was discovered in 2004 and is stronger than diamonds and yet remarkably flexible — creates incredible opportunities and implications for the field of technology. She referenced a prototype she has seen for a foldable cellphone, something considered a very “sci-fi” goal only a few decades back.

Indeed, because of her research and areas of interest, Singh often considers new technology with an eye for the materials that went into it. She pointed out her cellphone's lack of screen protector because of the tough Gorilla Glass 5 used for the screen — things like that spark her curiosity on how can we design materials using computations that perform even better. The tiniest of materials have incredible implications through technology and medicine.

Singh is excited to join ASU’s faculty and continue her research. “ASU seems like a very vibrant university where you can collaborate with other departments and researchers,” she said. This culture of innovation and communication, combined with the work other faculty are doing in the field of nanomaterials, made ASU a highly appealing destination for her.

“The school itself is leading the way in providing good quality of life, with an excellent reputation for having a good research program in physics,” she said.

When not building simulations to study nanomaterials and their possible uses, Singh enjoys the warm weather, badminton and outdoor activities available in Arizona.