For some people, it’s the small things that count

For some people, it’s the small things that count
Steven Louis, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, shows off his Golden Grizzlies' pride while studying this summer at the Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics in China.

Steven Louis, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, has taken this to heart, studying nanotechnology, or technology on a molecular scale. These molecules packed a powerful punch – one that sent him all the way to Suzhou, China for the summer to study at the Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics (SINANO).


From June 14 to August 14, Louis is looking at tiny, recently discovered electrical devices called spin torque nano-oscillators (STNO). These devices can create microwave frequency signals, which are used in wireless technology, and are small enough to be integrated into modern electronics.


“SINANO has scientists working at the forefront of nano-scale fabrication,” said Louis. “It is exhilarating studying the magnetic behavior of STNOs at atomic scales. We hope that with an OU-SINANO collaboration, we can use cutting edge science to deliver usable STNO applications in energy harvesting, logic devices, antenna design and magnetic sensing.”


The trip and research began when the National Science Foundation (NSF) granted Louis a fellowship to research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which is China’s equivalent to the NSF. Students from universities such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, University of Chicago and University of Michigan also submitted proposals. Only the best, including Louis,’ were chosen. The NSF and CAS are sponsoring Louis’ travel and living expenses.


SINANO is a world-class research facility and is part of the CAS. Louis is working with Zhongming Zeng, a world-renowned leader in spintronic and magnetic material research.


Louis also has time to explore Suzhou, where ancient and modern art and architecture coexist. He also got a tour of the Great Wall. Louis speaks enough Chinese to do basic things like eat out, but the other researchers and many of the locals speak English.


“I work with a big group of graduate students at SINANO,” he said. “It has been very fun going out with them. They, and the rest of Suzhou, have a very vibrant, wonderful world outlook.”


Louis’ wife, Yan Li, is an assistant professor of history at OU, and is also in China for the summer. She led a group of students on a six-week study abroad trip and is now traveling to gather research about modern Chinese history. She gets a chance to visit Louis in Suzhou from time to time.


Louis earned his master’s degree in physics last August. This is his first year of work toward his doctorate degree.

Steven Louis in the lab during his summer study in ChinaSteven Louis, right, is spending his summer learning about nanotechnology in China.