Northwestern Materials Science Welcomes David Barton

Barton will officially come aboard in January as an assistant professor

David Barton is eager to join the faculty in Northwestern Engineering’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). Northwestern and the MSE department, Barton said, were the obvious choices for him because of the people and research environments.

“It’s clear that world-class teaching and interdisciplinary research are built into the culture here, which is reflected in the number of research centers and amazing shared facilities,” Barton said. “I have felt very welcome here and I feel so lucky to be part of a department with faculty that care deeply about materials research and training the next generation of scientists and engineers.” 

David Barton

Barton will officially come aboard in January as an assistant professor after finishing his time as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University. Prior to Harvard, Barton earned his PhD at Stanford University and his bachelor of science at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

His research focuses on optical devices that fit on a chip – integrated photonics. Barton pointed out that routing and controlling light forms the backbone of modern communication technologies like the internet. Structuring materials at the micro- and nanoscale allows scientists to confine, route, and control light in new and useful ways, while also shrinking optical components down. Similar to the integrated circuit, this allows for faster, more efficient, and overall better performance for these devices and opens new possibilities in computing and communications. 

“My research program seeks to develop new optical technologies for energy-efficient communications and computing,” Barton said. “This involves developing new materials that can be integrated on a chip; characterizing the electronic, photonic, and electro-optic properties of these materials; and developing scalable nanofabrication processes to make these devices with new and established materials systems.”

Barton’s background is interdisciplinary – his bachelor of science is in chemical engineering while his PhD is in materials science – and he is looking forward to continue his research at the intersection of materials, electrical engineering, and applied physics. 

“I’m really excited to dive into research and teaching,” Barton said. “I’m looking forward to developing a new research group and find solutions to hard problems. I’m excited to see how our research can have impact and work with the other faculty on interdisciplinary problems. Half of my immediate family are also educators at various levels, so I’m also looking forward to developing new courses and to teach undergraduate and graduate courses in optical materials.” 

Barton is also enthusiastic about another part of the Northwestern Engineering experience, one that will challenge both sides of his brain.

“I am very interested in the intersection of art and science, particularly as a tool for teaching and outreach,” Barton said. “Outside of work one of my major hobbies is pottery, and I have an active interest in glazes and glaze formulation. I hope to include aspects of this in my teaching and to develop interdisciplinary activities on and off campus that introduce materials science concepts in a more artistic light.” 

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