David Duowei Xu (D.D.X.)
PhD Candidate in the Department of Chemistry
David Duowei Xu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. His research focuses on luminescent materials on the molecular scale. David is passionate about sharing ideas and collaborating with other people in the field of chemistry.
How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
I work on the synthesis and screening of luminescent nanomaterial libraries. Luminescent nanomaterials are emerging optically active building blocks with nanoscale dimensions for applications in medicine,
photonics, and energy conversion. My research focuses on fabricating and investigating arrays of different luminescent nanomaterials, which we call a nanomaterial library, in high-throughput fashion to rapidly understand complex physical phenomena and discover new materials.
What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
The most memorable progress in my research was actually not made during an experiment or when analyzing results. I remember that my biggest achievements or 'aha' moments stem from talking and discussing research with mentors, friends, or collaborators. As one example, I remember going to a festival with my mentor Shawn where we suddenly found a way to interpret our data and design new experiments accordingly in the middle of the party. Talking about big picture problems with others helped advance my projects the most (and it’s also very fun!).
What is a mistake you have learned from in your career?
During my first two years, I got so focused on the details of my project and the daily experimenting, that I forgot the original motivation why I started science, which for me is to explore new unknown phenomena. A big change during the last years came from understanding that a PhD program is a long process not only meant for pushing out publications as fast as possible, but also for developing new skills in research and life. Appreciating the chance to learn new things and talking with other motivated scientists helped me get back the fun in research.
How do you unwind after a long day?
Spikeball, travelling, cocktail mixing, chess, music, competitive e-sports.
(Note to my PIs: All of this in moderation of course.)
What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
“One month of experiments can save you one week of reading.” A well-designed project with a good hypothesis will bring you further than aimless “lab hours.” In my experience, spending energy and time to think about and discuss a project is the most efficient way to progress.
Published: July 26, 2022
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