Featured Customer – Robert Pankow, Ph.D.

Please tell us about your background: where you grew up, studied, and why you chose the field you did.

I grew up in Visalia, CA, and I earned my BA in Chemistry from UC Santa Barbara (2012) and my MS in Chemistry from CSU Northridge (2015). I then received my Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Southern California (2020) under the guidance of Prof. Barry C. Thompson, focusing on the design and sustainable synthesis of conjugated polymers. I find conjugated polymers to be fascinating materials, since they have enabled the development of flexible and stretchable electronic devices for various applications, including photovoltaics, electronic displays, and biological sensors.

What does your current position entail? How does it tie into your previous experience, and where is it going?

I am currently an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University working with Prof. Tobin J. Marks and Prof. Antonio Facchetti. During my time at Northwestern University, I have had the opportunity to work on projects related to all-polymer solar cells and organic electrochemical transistors. Now, my focus is on developing mechanically and environmentally robust polymers for applications in electrochromic devices. This research involves tuning the polymer optical-absorption via structural modification and fabricating nanostructured films to improve the mechanical and charge-transport properties of the electrochromic devices. My current research interests include the design and synthesis of functional organic materials, polymer synthesis and characterization, sustainable chemistry, and organic electronics.

In what context did you first learn about light scattering and Wyatt Technology's instruments?

I had first learned about light scattering and Wyatt Technology during graduate school, and I have been using Wyatt’s DAWN® multi-angle light scattering (MALS) and Optilab® refractive index (RI) detectors throughout my Ph.D. and postdoc.

How has your Wyatt instrumentation contributed to your research and development studies?

The conjugated polymer molecular weight and dispersity is directly related to the key performance metrics and mechanical properties for many organic electronic devices. Understanding how the polymer molecular weight distribution influences the optical and charge-transport properties, blend morphology and microstructure, and flexibility and stretchability is of great fundamental importance. Wyatt Technology is the leader in the field for SEC-MALS, and their instrumentation will allow us to accurately determine the absolute molecular weight of our polymers so that we can fabricate state-of-the-art and mechanically robust devices.