Remembering Professor Yaqiong Xu
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our VINSE colleague, Professor Yaqiong Xu, to a long-term illness last fall. Yaqiong joined Vanderbilt and the VINSE community in the fall of 2009 after receiving a PhD in Physics with Prof. Bang-Gui Liu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China, a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering with Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley from Rice University, and completing postdoctoral training with Prof. Paul McEuen at Cornell University. At Vanderbilt, Yaqiong had faculty appointments in both EECS and Physics & Astronomy.
Yaqiong’s research was in the area of low-dimensional materials and her group had many notable contributions exploiting novel optoelectronic properties of nanomaterials. One experiment in particular exemplified the “tour de force” nature of Yaqiong’s research: the development of a carbon nanotube force sensor utilizing dual-trap optical tweezers to explore the interactions between a single suspended carbon nanotube and a single DNA base in the near-equilibrium regime with sub-piconewton resolution. This experiment took years of skill and patience to achieve and demonstrated the unique experimental capabilities developed by Yaqiong and her group. Over the past few years, Yaqiong was widely recognized for pioneering graphene-based scanning photocurrent microscopy of central nervous systems with unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution, allowing for detection of the electrical activities from individual spines and synapses.
Beyond her groundbreaking research achievements, Yaqiong helped to transform VINSE’s educational mission by introducing a significant immersive component to the Physics course Experimental Nanoscale Fabrication and Characterization, which enabled over 100 students from nine different majors to learn how to fabricate and characterize graphene transistors in the VINSE core facilities. Yaqiong was also a dedicated mentor who supervised Ph.D. students in both EECS and Physics. Yaqiong’s legacy will live on through the students she mentored and through those of us who had the opportunity to work with her in the VINSE community.