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Meet Tech Engineer Professor Glass

Spotlight focuses on the creative individuals that make Spaces what it is. We talk to Spaces member Jeffrey T. Glass, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University, about everything from his greatest achievements to his guilty pleasures.

Hi Jeffrey, can you tell us a bit about where you work?

I work for the School of Engineering at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in the United States. Duke is a major research university originally founded in 1838 and later named after James Buchannan Duke, a wealthy entrepreneur, for his generous donations to the university. I’m working in Amsterdam for two months this summer because my wife’s organisation has business here. I love working at Duke because it’s a very entrepreneurial university which attracts top students, has a beautiful campus with old stone architecture (old for the U.S. anyway!), and a large chapel. It has a highly regarded medical centre and business school in addition to all of the standard undergraduate programs found at most U.S. universities.

Interestingly, Duke Global Health Institute has recently established a partnership with the Amsterdam Health Technology Institute which I didn’t know about when I decided to spend two months in Amsterdam! The Engineering School is known for many research advances in materials, biomedical devices and data analytics but the most famous recent advance is probably the “Invisibility Cloak”, just like in Harry Potter except not in visible wavelengths of light!

What is your role?

I’m a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and also the Faculty Director of Duke’s Engineering Management Programme. I’m a materials scientist by training so my research involves developing new materials for electronic applications. I teach innovation management, help students understand entrepreneurship and lead a team of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers studying nanotechnology for energy conversion, energy storage, trace chemical detection and disinfection. I love being a professor at a major research university because the job is very diverse. In addition to teaching, I mentor students about their classes or careers and I collaborate on research with my students and other faculty. I write many papers and proposals, travel to conferences to present our work and serve on committees for professional societies.

What’s your best quality, and what makes you so great at it?

I’m pretty good at making connections to achieve a goal; these connections could be between different ideas, different people, different technologies or even different organisations. I think I’m good at this because I’m interested in almost everything and I am always looking for ways to relate to anything I see. But perhaps my best quality is my optimism and “joie de vivre”, which I inherited from my Mom.

What achievement are you particularly proud of?

That is easy; I’m most proud of every student who graduates from my group or even just learns something important in my class. I love to help students and young researchers with their education and their careers. When I get a note from a former student telling me how something they learned helped them in their career or life, it’s the most satisfying part of my job.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

I breathe (doesn’t everybody?). Actually, I do breathing exercises with a little bit of meditation added in. It just takes a few minutes every day and it keeps my work in perspective and helps me manage stress.

Which websites do you visit every day?

The Spaces website of course – at least since I have been here in Amsterdam! I want to open a Spaces in Durham, NC. It is a great model for a work space! I also visit the technology page of my Flipboard App almost every day to keep up with the latest science and engineering news.

What gadget can’t you live without?

My car. OK, maybe it is not the type of gadget you were thinking of but in the U.S., a car  is absolutely critical and I really like the freedom it provides to go anywhere, anytime. If I lived in Amsterdam there is no way I would drive a car and I am sure I wouldn’t even miss it. If I didn’t need a car then my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 would be my favourite gadget. It is a combination tablet and laptop that goes with me everywhere!

What is your ultimate way to kick back and relax?

See my answer to the next question… !

On what guilty pleasure do you spend just a little too much money on?

I have a weekend house in the Blue Ridge Mountains about 2.5 hours drive from my home in Durham. It has a beautiful long range view of the valley below from its deck and we often see rainbows in the valley after the storms roll through. To make it affordable I own it with my brother but it is still a guilty pleasure I spend too much money on!

If you could go back in time, and meet your 20 year old self, what advice would you give yourself?

“Relax, enjoy the moment, nothing is urgent.” Interestingly, these are the same things I tell myself now during my daily meditation!

Great, thanks Jeffrey. 

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