Ben Wu has an expansive range of interests — hiking in the Catalina Mountains and, most recently, hiking Mount Wrightson south of Tucson and listening to the likes of Young Thug and Future.
When not reaching for higher altitudes, Wu has been working with Oliver Monti, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, attempting to determine how charge transport in molecules can be tailored and made efficient.
Motivated by the desire to create the next generation of organic electronic devices that operate at the ultimate size limit, Wu has spent the last year in the lab working with graduate student researchers Jeff Ivie and Tyler Johnson on single molecule charge transport experiments. They hope to understand how the electronic structure of single molecules changes when attached electrodes.
With help from the highly selective Beckman Scholarship and the UA's Undergraduate Biology Research Program, Wu also has been developing novel data-analysis techniques to model and treat the large data sets generated by their experiment. These techniques not only allow Wu to uncover patterns in data that may have previously been missed, but they also give a new avenue for hypothesis generation.
So compelling is this work that Wu was selected for one of the three speaker slots at the 2016 Beckman Symposium, which will be held in August in Irvine, California. During the conference, Wu will discuss his latest research results before several hundred scientists, including Nobel Laureates.
"Being a Beckman Scholar has been one of the defining experiences during my college career and has given me numerous opportunities to build academic, communication and professional skills," said Wu, a May UA graduate with degrees in mathematics and chemical engineering. Wu, a native of Glendale, Arizona, is slated to begin doctoral student in mathematics at Stony Brook University in the fall.
"I wanted to tackle issue of renewable energy. Chemical engineering, with its emphasis on energy transfer and reactor design, seemed like the best choice to help me reach this goal," Wu said.
"However, as I progressed through my core classes, I became fascinated with the mathematical structure underlying the physical problems. Mathematics is endless. There is always a new question to think about, and that's my favorite part about the subject."
Wu said he is appreciative of the opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate.
"Undergraduate research has completely changed my perspective on what problem-solving entails. In my classes, the problems that are presented are usually clearly defined and have a correct answer," he said. "This is not the case in research."