Dr. Nan Yao is the founding director of Princeton's preeminent Imaging and Analysis Center. He is a Senior Research Scholar and a Lecturer with the rank of Professor in the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, and a Faculty Fellow of Whitman College. As a faculty member, Yao is a nine-time recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award and Commendation for Outstanding Teaching from the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Princeton University, where he has taught more than 3500 students including hundreds of industrial scientists from over 120 companies. As a research scholar, Yao's contributions to science and engineering include the co-discovery of the first natural quasicrystals, a finding that has revolutionized the science of natural crystal chemistry.

Yao is a fellow of the Microscopy Society of America and the Royal Microscopical Society. He is among the top 25 most cited Google Scholars in the field of Electron Microscopy in both the physical and life sciences disciplines (2017-18). He was also recognized for authoring among the top 100 most read Nature Scientific Reports articles in 2015 (out of ~11,000 papers). Yao's research has focused on utilizing advanced imaging, diffraction, spectroscopy and in-situ techniques, in tandem with computer simulation, to conduct fundamental studies of the structure-composition-processing-property relationships in complex materials for applications in nanotechnology, energy, environment and health. Yao has published two books entitled Handbook of Microscopy for Nanotechnology (Kluwer/Springer Publishers 2005, Chinese edition: Tsinghua University Press 2006, Russian edition: Springer Publishers 2011) and Focused Ion Beam System: Basics and Applications (Cambridge University Press, 2007). He has also authored 17 book chapters and more than 250 research publications in scientific journals, including Science, Nature, and many others. Yao is respected for his many contributions to the field including developing the first 300 keV Environmental-cell Transmission Electron Microscope (1991) and developing a theoretical explanation for the superior imaging resolution of scanning helium-ion microscopy over the scanning electron microscopy (2008).

Yao collaborates with scholars on interdisciplinary research. After searching for more than a decade, in cooperation with L. Bindi, P. J. Steinhardt and P. Lu, Yao obtained the first conclusive evidence of crystallographically forbidden icosahedral symmetry in a naturally occurring phase that led the discovery of natural quasicrystal, a finding has revolutionized the science of natural crystal chemistry [Science 324 (5932), 1306 (2009)]. This extraordinary breakthrough was cited in the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2011 press release. Furthermore, in recognition of their achievement, Yao's co-discoverer, Bindi was awarded the "2015 Presidente della Repubblica Prize", the highest national scientific award in Italy. In 2015, Yao's transmission electron microscopy results again provided conclusive evidence for the discovery of the second quasicrystal of any kind found in nature, a novel natural quasicrystal with decagonal symmetry [Scientific Reports 5 9111 (2015)]. The discovery of the natural quasicrystals opens a new chapter in the study of mineralogy, forever redefining the conventional classification of mineral forms established in the 19th century. This discovery also opens a new way of longitudinally studying metal alloy stability in pressure and temperature conditions not accessible in the laboratory. These discoveries, which came from the study of meteorite samples that formed about 4.5 billion years ago, could answer basic questions about how materials were formed in our universe. In 2010, Yao's work with A. Maloof, et al. resulted in discovering a 650 million-year-old sponge-like organism. The shell-like fossils represent the earliest evidence of such animal forms in the current fossil record. The finding means animals appeared on Earth about 100 million years earlier than first thought, a significant contribution to the study of the development of Earth [Nature Geoscience 3 (9), 653 (2010)]. Together with D. Norris, Yao was invited to publish the opening paper in Nano Letters' inaugural issue [Nano Letters 1 (1), 3 (2001)].

Yao serves on the editorial boards of 12 professional journals and is on the research proposal advisory committee for NSF, DOE, NIH, NASA, two US National Labs (Oak Ridge and Brookhaven), the Austrian Science Fund, the French National Research Agency, European Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland, etc. Yao has chaired nine international symposia and delivered over 50 invited lectures in recent years. He was a keynote speaker in the 2005 US R&D Magazine's Research Lab Expo Conference. In 2018, Yao organized the inaugural Princeton - Nature Conference, in partner with the scientific publisher - Nature, entitled "Frontiers in Electron Microscopy for the Physical and Life Sciences", which is for the first time brings together scientists from both the physical and the life sciences to explore the new horizons of research now becoming available through electron microscopy.

Yao's prime directive also involves teaching. He created and directs a teaching curriculum in materials characterization at Princeton. In addition to regular for-credit classes, Yao has also developed an outreach program through short courses and workshops in materials science, which are offered monthly to students from other universities and to industrial scientists, all free of charge. More than 3500 undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and industrial scientists have enjoyed their learning experience in Dr. Yao's classroom at Princeton. Yao is the recipient of the Outstanding Service Award in Preparing Science and Technology Leaders for the Future from the Siemens Foundation in 2011. The students he mentored have won many national and international awards including Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellowship, Barry M. Goldwater National Scholarship, Fulbright Scholarship, Rhodes Scholarship, AFCEA National Grand Prize for Science, National Science Foundation Fellowship, National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship, Materials Research Society Student Award, Microbeam Analysis Society Distinguished Scholar Award, Microscopy Society of America Undergraduate Research Award, Lawrence Fellowship, Forbes' 30 Under 30, and French Innovators Under 35, etc.

Having started his career as an industrial scientist, Yao has since devoted himself to building stronger bonds between academia and industry. For more than 25 years at Princeton, he has personally educated 800 industrial scientists from more than 120 companies by providing them with hands-on experience in materials characterization through his short course/workshop program and by facilitating joint collaborative research. Yao's efforts have helped lead these industrial partners to many innovations and new product developments. Companies that have benefited from such collaborative education and research include Bristol Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Dow Chemical, DuPont, ExxonMobil, GE, Henkel, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Merck, Sun Chemical, as well as many new startups. Yao is accomplished at founding and managing complex central facilities under financial constraints and developing them as engines of innovation and economic growth. He carries a strong record of fundraising in both public and private sector settings, successfully realizing Princeton’s strategic goals of outreach and engagement with industry.

After receiving a Ph.D. in applied physics and electron microscopy from Arizona State University where John M. Cowley was his dissertation advisor, Yao entered industry, first working at the Shell Development Company, then at the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. He joined Princeton University in 1993 to help build an interdisciplinary imaging and analysis program, which has now become a world-leading materials characterization center at Princeton. In 2003, Yao accepted a continuing appointment from the Dean of the Faculty as a Senior Research Scholar (rank of full Professor) at Princeton University.

PrincetonPrinceton University
Princeton, New Jersey
Zip: 08544
United States of America

IACPRISM Imaging and Analysis Center
Andlinger Center, Room 033
86 Olden Street
Phone: 609-258-6394
Email: nyao@princeton.edu