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The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (“ASPIRE”) is an annual award sponsored by Wiley and Elsevier and recognizes young scientists who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in scientific research and collaboration with scientists in the region. This year ASPIRE received 17 young scientists as nominees—the highest number of participation since the award was founded in 2011. These scientists nominated by the 17 APEC economies have impressive backgrounds and research in a wide range of disciplines that contribute to the ASPIRE theme of new material technologies. Here is an overview of this year’s 17 nominees and their outstanding field of research.


Dr Dayong Jin

Affiliation: ARC Future Fellow, Director, ARC Industry Transformational Research Hub for Integrated Device for End-user Analysis at Low-levels; Distinguished Professor, Institute of Biomedical Materials & Devices, the University of Technology Sydney

Field of Research: Photonics materials, biomedical materials, chemical and mechanical engineering, solid-state physics nanotechnology, sensing technologies based on novel materials, anti-counterfeiting materials and technology, biomedical device engineering, fluorescent materials for super resolution bio-imaging.

Trained as an optoelectronics engineer, Dr Jin develops new materials into high value molecular sensors that enable time-resolved optical instruments to find disease cells earlier, quicker and with better resolution. His approaches, co-developed with his U.S. based collaborators, have become the international standard for background-free imaging


Dr Ying Woan (Yvonne) Soon

Affiliation: Doctor (PhD), Universiti Brunei Darussalam

Field of Research: Organic Solar Cells, Conjugated Polymers, Nanomaterials, Renewable Energy, Photostability

Dr Soon works in the field of organic solar cells, which is a promising low cost technology for solar energy conversion. Her study mainly uses a novel donor-acceptor type of conjugated polymers as the light absorbing nano layer thin film. The aim of her study is to establish relationships between material design and device performance as well as stability, since these polymers have great synthesis flexibility to tune optical and electrical properties.


Dr Zachary Hudson

Affiliation: Assistant Professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Chemistry, University of British Columbia

Field of Research: Materials science, organic and organometallic synthesis, organic electronics, polymer chemistry, nanonscience

Dr Hudson's research focuses on the development of photonic and electronic materials to address issues of sustainability in chemistry and materials science. His research team synthesizes new molecular and polymeric materials for applications in sensing, printed electronics, and efficient solid-state lighting. The group also explores the synthesis of functional nanostructures from soft materials, their self-assembly into complex architectures, and their emerging applications in nanoscale electronics.


Dr Juan Eduardo Escrig Murua

Affiliation: Associate Professor, Department of Physics, University of Santiago, Chile 

Field of Research: Nanomagnetism

Dr Escrig is a pioneer in magnetic nanotubes. His research in the area of nanomagnetism focused on the dipolar interaction between micro and nanometric magnetic systems.  His research at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics (Germany) on magnetization reversal processes and hysteresis curves of magnetic nanowires and nanotubes, developing several new methods, one of which is now used by several groups around the world.


Dr Yanwu Zhu

Affiliation: Professor, University of Science and Technology of China

Field of
Research: New carbon materials

Dr Zhu’s research is in the fields of nanomaterials and specifically new carbon materials.  His research has included such topics as hotplate growth and field emission properties of metal oxide nanostructures, large-scale preparation of graphene materials for energy conversion and storage, and the synthesis of novel three-dimensional (3D) carbons.  


Dr Anderson Shum

Affiliation: Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering & Medical Engineering Program, The University of Hong Kong 

Field of Research: Soft Materials, Microfluidics, Bio-Materials

Dr Anderson Shum’s research in new material development technologies has had significant impacts in biomedical, food and other applications. His works have led to commercial success in cosmetic industries and his inventions are licensed to companies working on materials. Examples of his work include developing the next-generation diagnostics-on-a-chip system using microfluidics with Shenzhen University and studying formation of mesoscaled particles with Sichuan University.


Dr Shuhei Furukawa

Affiliation: Associate Professor, Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (WPI-iCeMS), Kyoto University

Field of Research: Materials Chemistry

Dr Shuhei Furukawa’s research in the last decade has established the so-called “Mesoscopic Coordination Chemistry” research field, in particular, using porous coordination polymers/metal-organic frameworks (PCPs/MOFs), a new class of porous materials, in which metal ions/clusters are coordinately linked by organic spokes to form crystalline framework structures with intrinsic permanent porosity. His research focuses on the development of new synthetic technologies of PCPs/MOFs in the meso-scale (5-1000 nm) and the understanding of their unique properties. The resulting new porous materials are further considered for microenvironmental applications, such as electronics for molecular sensing and delivering molecules to cells.


Dr Min-Wook Oh 

Affiliation: Assistant Professor, Department of Advanced Materials Engineering, Hanbat National University

Field of Research: Thermoelectric Materials and Devices, Computational Materials Simulations

Dr Oh’s research in the past decade has developed new thermoelectric and energy-related materials and improved the world’s understanding of electrical, thermal, and thermoelectric properties at the level of materials, devices, and whole system. His main scientific research focuses on thermoelectric materials which has potential in waste heat recovery to produce electricity. He has developed novel thermoelectric materials: silicides, chalcogenides, skutterudites, half heusler alloys, and clathlates compounds, and thermoelectric devices with new architecture in shape, properties, and function.


Dr Othman Mohd Hafiz Dzarfan

Affiliation: Associate Professor, Department of Energy Engineering, Deputy Director of the Advanced Membrane Technology Research Centre at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

Field of Research: Membrane Technology 

Dr Mohd Hafiz Dzarfan Othman’s work lies in the field of sustainable ceramic/polymeric membrane for energy generation, carbon capture, and water reclamation. His research team has successfully developed a novel photcatalytic membrane for the treatment of recalcitrant organic pollutants in water as well as an economical fuel cell for efficient electricity generation.


Dr Justin Hodgkiss

Affiliation: Associate Professor, Deputy Director and Principal Investigator, MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, Victoria University of Wellington  

Field of Research: Ultrafast laser spectroscopy of materials for next generation solar photovoltaics

Dr Justin Hodgkiss is a leading figure in the development of next generation solar photovoltaic technologies. These new organic polymer-based materials promise low-cost, large-scale manufacturing, but their power conversion efficiency must be improved. Dr Hodgkiss has made decisive contributions to a large multidisciplinary research effort to develop efficient organic solar photovoltaic materials, leading to doubling their efficiency in the past eight years, rapidly approaching that of silicon.


Dr Betty Galarreta

Affiliation: Associate Professor, Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru

Field of Research: Nanotechnology and Vibrational Spectroscopy

Dr Galarreta’s main research aspects include nanomaterials, surface chemistry, plasmonics and molecular biology. Her work focuses on developing optical nanosensors with applications in the food industry, and novel vibrational spectroscopic methods to characterize nanomolecular systems and  Peruvian cultural heritage materials.


Dr Andrey Enyashin

Affiliation: Doctor, Institute of Solid State Chemistry, Ural Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences

Field of Research: Computational materials science

The theoretical insight of Dr Andrey Enyashin by means of quantum-chemistry methods has explained many peculiarities in polymorphism, crystal structure and electronic properties of the vanadate- and vanadia-based nanostructures, pushing ahead the application of these new materials for advanced micro- and nanosensorics.  


Dr Yanli Zhao

Affiliation: Associate Professor, Division of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry, Nanyang Technological University

Field of Research: Integrated Materials for Biomedicine

Dr Yanli Zhao conducts research in an interdisciplinary area of chemistry and materials with an emphasis on the design, synthesis, and applications of novel integrated materials for targeted cancer imaging and therapy. He has outlined an independent blueprint for the research program that leverages his experiences in synthetic chemistry and advanced materials by using novel nanocarriers to enhance intracellular concentration of anticancer drugs in cancer cells, while minimizing their toxicity in normal cells. His discovery of innovative therapeutic platforms that can simultaneously target diseased cells enable the location to be imaged by optical methods, and release therapeutic drugs to the diseased cells by commands.


Dr Yu-Lun Chueh

Affiliation: Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, National Tsing-Hua University

Field of Research: Nanomaterials, Energy Harvesting, ReRAM, 2D Materials, CIGS Solar Cells

Dr Yu‐Lun Chueh’s research explores unpredicted aspects of functional materials and enabling new schemes for the manipulation, processing and engineering of nanomaterials in nanoelectronics and energy harvesting applications. His extensive and impactful research includes the development of a novel, non‐toxic plasma enhanced selenization process to achieve a 30x40 cm2 Cu(In, Ga)Se2 solar panel with an efficiency of ~13.2 %.


Dr Nuwong Chollacoop

Affiliation: Doctor; Head of Renewable Energy Laboratory. National Metal and Materials Technology Center  

Field of Research: Renewable energy, Sustainable biofuel for transportation, Biofuel standardization

Dr Chollacoop’s research has been applied to address the energy crisis in Thailand especially in the transportation sector. His research network on sustainable biofuel includes Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) work on biodiesel quality to support initial stage of Thailand biodiesel program. He has also led research in Thailand on “Innovation on Production and Automotive Utilization of Biofuels from Non-food Biomass” funded by Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).


Dr Liangfang Zhang

Affiliation: Professor, Department of Nanoengineering and Moores Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego

Field of Research: Nanomaterials and Nanomedicine

Dr Zhang’s research focuses on creating biomimetic nanomaterials for medical uses. By cloaking synthetic nanoparticles with natural cellular membranes, Dr Zhang first invented a red blood cell-membrane-camouflaged nanoparticle platform that can evade the body’s immune system for prolonged and effective delivery of drugs. This work represents the first attempt to combine natural cellular membranes with synthetic nanomaterials to develop novel biomimetic systems. More recently he created the first ever cancer-cell-membrane coated nanoparticles for whole tumor antigen vaccination. These findings open a whole new set of opportunities for the society of nanotechnology and materials science.


Dr Dinh Phong Tran

Affiliation: Doctor; Lecturer and Principal Investigator University of Science and Technology of Hanoi (Viet Nam France University)

Field of Research: Functional Nanomaterials and Catalysis

Dr Tran is actively involved in research for novel catalytic materials for solar water splitting application. His approach is to learn the structure and function of enzymes to create novel efficient and robust catalytic materials. His first important contribution was during his postdoctoral stay at CEA Grenoble, France where he contributed to creating carbon nanotube – nickel/cobalt composites which displayed outstanding catalytic activities for both generation and uptake of H2 by mimicking the structure of hydrogenase enzyme. Dr Tran also made important contribution in development of hybrid photocatalysts for solar H2 generation from water, and his method for loading catalyst onto surface of light harvester via a photoassisted electrochemical deposition process is now used by several research groups worldwide.