Cardiff University appoints leading US compound semiconductor expert with Welsh Government support

One of the world' s leading experts in compound semiconductors (CS) has been appointed to lead a new research laboratory at Cardiff University with the power to turn the city into a global hub for CS research and exploitation.

Professor Diana Huffaker

Professor Diana Huffaker, currently at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has been appointed as Chair in Advanced Engineering and Materials through the Welsh Government's £50m Sêr Cymru programme.

CS technology lies behind global 'megatrends' including smart phones and tablets, powering change across sectors including healthcare, biotechnology and mass communications.

Professor Huffaker will establish a world-class research lab with a focus on fundamental science and device development. It will build on existing strengths at Cardiff University in expanding areas of optoelectronics, semiconductor devices and materials.

The lab will explore novel growth methods and material combinations that industry cannot necessarily accommodate, and will form part of the Compound Semiconductor Foundation - a joint venture between Cardiff University and technology firm IQE.

Professor Huffaker's research focuses on the development of unique materials that will enable the production of new devices with new functionality. She is best known for her pioneering work on compound semiconductors and the development of innovative 'quantum dot' materials, used in optoelectronics and laser physics. Graduate students from Professor Huffaker's California lab recently formed a spin-off company to commercialise the lab's research into high-sensitivity electronic receivers.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan, said: "Professor Diana Huffaker is a truly outstanding researcher, with a record of research excellence in areas of global impact and strategic importance not only to Cardiff University, but also to Wales. Professor Huffaker and her team will help drive economic growth and innovation. Securing such an eminent scientist will put Wales firmly on the map as a UK hub for semiconductor technology research and innovation."

Professor Huffaker said: "The Ser Cymru Chair in Advanced Engineering and Materials is a unique opportunity to build academic excellence around existing areas of strength within the College of Physical Sciences & Engineering through leveraging partnerships with IQE and small companies within Wales.

"My research vision is to bring the promise of nanoscale physics to collect and transmit information using light with exquisite speed and sensitivity. With the Ser Cymru investment, I shall build an extensive user facility for materials and nanostructure synthesis not currently available in UK. To meet the needs of industry and academic collaborators, this laboratory will feature nimble flexibility to try new ideas, new material systems and growth methodology."

Professor Huffaker is the fourth appointment under the Welsh Government's Sêr Cymru programme, a five-year initiative to attract and support world-class scientific researchers and their teams to Wales. Prof. Andrew Barron has been appointed as Chair of Low Carbon, Energy and Environment at Swansea University, Prof. James Durrant has been appointed as Solar Energy Research Chair, also at Swansea University, while Prof. Yves Barde, has taken up a post at Cardiff University as Research Chair in Neurobiology.

Minister for Economy and Science, Edwina Hart said: "I am very pleased to welcome Professor Huffaker to Wales. She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to lead the semiconductor research unit at Cardiff. Professor Huffaker is the fourth world class researcher brought to Wales under our Sêr Cymru programme, which is significantly boosting our country's research capability. A strong science research capability is vital to improving our economic wellbeing and securing a prosperous, healthy and sustainable future for Wales."

Professor Julie Williams, Welsh Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, said: "Semiconductor technology research has the potential to drive developments across many fields including industry, healthcare and communications. Professor Huffaker's appointment will boost Wales' growing reputation in this field. A female engineer of such eminence will also be an excellent role model for young girls in Wales."