Phaedon Avouris also worries about young scientists entering materials research. Avouris, who was Collins’s postdoctoral adviser, performed some of the first experiments characterizing nanotubes at IBM. “It’s very hard to tell young people to ignore the hype,” he says. “We have too many people that follow fashion and patterns rather than their own passions.”
Today, when scientists focus on studying a new material, there is a rush to characterize it, publish papers about its properties in prominent journals, and then move on to a different material, Avouris says. “We’re left with a lot of unfinished work and unproven claims,” he tells C&EN. Researchers develop a fundamental understanding of materials but not how to use them. “Few people are willing to work on the hard problems that will bring applications.”
Avouris adds that many students are drawn to this brand of “novel materials” research with the perceived promise of a high-profile paper, which would look great on a résumé. “You can’t blame them,” he says. “They need to get jobs.”Don't we all?