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Palais Outstanding Doctoral Student Award, Spring 2021

Hong Chen

When you ask Hong Chen about his research and his achievements at Arizona State University, he very humbly tells you about the technical aspects of his research. Like how he is developing that will one day enable researchers to study new quantum phenomena at a much smaller scale.

Or he’ll tell you about how he was just one of many in a very competitive graduating class receiving accolades. 

But what he fails to mention is how he is quickly becoming one of the great minds in the field of photonics, a fact that his mentor Assistant Professor Yuji Zhao is happy to share. 

“What he accomplished here at ASU is just phenomenal,” Zhao says. “It goes far beyond the quantity of work, but the depth and quality that set him apart from other students.”

While at ASU, Chen first-authored seven research papers, collaborated on many others and was highly cited amongst other researchers. He also presented twice at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO), the key conference in the optics community. 

Chen’s impeccable research at ASU is helping to push quantum photonics in a more accessible direction. Enabling the development of small-scale applications in quantum physics and biomedical sensors.

This level of academic achievement made him a clear winner for the Palais Doctoral Student Award, which recognizes the top graduating electrical engineering doctoral student. 

Chen’s journey at ASU began when he was a student in China at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, or HUST. ASU and HUST have a long-standing collaboration agreement and when the opportunity arose for Chen to take classes in Arizona, he jumped at the chance. It was during this time that Chen met his mentor, Zhao. 

After graduating from HUST in 2015 with his bachelor’s degree, Chen enrolled at ASU to study with Zhao and earn his master’s in electrical engineering from the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the six schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. The partnership between Zhao and Chen proved to be serendipitous and Chen stayed on to earn his PhD.

When Chen first started in the lab, Zhao recalls a very eager student whose attention went from topic to topic. He approached his work with a quick mindset instead of a methodical one. Over the years, Zhao watched this eager researcher become a thoughtful, focused and determined scientist. 

“He has laid a very solid foundation of what an outstanding and dedicated ASU student can become,” Zhao says. “Chen has raised the profile and proves we are producing graduates on par with schools like Stanford and MIT.”

Chen’s future is described as limitless. He is currently a scientist at the prestigious Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Germany. There he is continuing to work on system-level integration of group-III-nitrides-based photonic integrated circuit, which is an extension of his doctoral research. 

 “Without a doubt, we will hear of his work in the future,” Zhao says. “He is clearly a star in his field.”

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ Spring 2021 class here.

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