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Engineering Professor Yaqiong Xu was a gifted scholar and devoted mentor

Posted by on Thursday, December 2, 2021 in News.

Yaqiong Xu, associate professor of electrical engineering and physics, has died after a long-term illness. She died Oct. 30 in China, where she had returned to be with her family.

Yaqiong Xu

A celebration of her life will be held Friday, Dec. 3, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the School of Engineering’s Jacob’s Believed in Me Auditorium, Featheringill Hall 134.

A gifted scholar whose research focused on nanoelectronics and nanofabrication, Xu also was a faculty member and investigator in the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE).

“Yaqiong and her students performed exquisite optical experiments at the cutting edge of what is possible using state of the art technology,” said Philippe Fauchet, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Dean of Engineering.

Among her many awards, Xu received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award 2011, and she was a Vanderbilt Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow in 2012-2013. In 2014, Xu was one of two Vanderbilt engineering professors to win a NSF Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research. The award was part of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative.

Xu’s research was highly interdisciplinary, spanning engineering, physics, and medicine. She established an international reputation for carrying out “tour de force” experiments combining nanotechnology and biology, said Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering Sharon Weiss, director of VINSE, a professor of electrical engineering, materials science and physics.

In her recent work, she used graphene probes to study electrical signals in individual synapses in the brain, enabling the investigation of neural networks with unprecedented resolution. “Yaqiong had an amazing talent for solving extraordinarily difficult research challenges at the nanoscale. She was a true pioneer at the forefront of nanoscience,” Weiss said.

Xu also made significant curricular innovations. She redesigned PHYS 2660—Experimental Nanoscale Fabrication and Characterization—to include an immersive hands-on component that allowed students to fabricate and characterize their own graphene transistors in VINSE. She was the mentor to multiple graduate, undergraduate and high school students during her career at Vanderbilt.

Xu joined Vanderbilt faculty as an assistant professor in 2009 from Cornell University where she was a postdoctoral research associate. Xu completed Ph.D. degrees in electrical and computer engineering at Rice University in 2006 and in physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China, in 2002.

Contact: Brenda Ellis, 6115 343-6314

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