My Collaboration with Millie

Chris Dames reflects on his collaboration with Millie during his PhD (2001-2008).
by Chris Dames
Mar 20, 2018chevron-down
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My Collaboration with Millie
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Chris Dames (MIT, UC Riverside, now UC Berkeley)
Connection to Millie (2001 - 2008): Research collaboration during PhD, and mentor in early career.

My PhD dealt with phonon modeling in nanostructures, and Millie was a frequent collaborator.

My first conference talk as an MIT student: "Phonon Thermal Conductivity of Superlattice Nanowires for Thermoelectric Applications"

C. Dames, M. S. Dresselhaus, and G. Chen (MRS 2003).

She challenged me to think about thermal wavelengths in different materials....

A typical Millie question to me:

When is characteristic wavelength comparable to diameter?

Or, when is sub-band separation comparable to kBT?

This helped get me thinking about the most appropriate weighting to quantify the range of wavelengths and mean free paths.

Fig. 42.6 The range of wavelengths important for carrying the heat in Si and PbTe nanostructures (CRC 2005, Acknowledgement: M. S. Dresselhaus)

Gray (traditional) vs. Non-Gray ("new") MFP spectra. (MRS 2008)

…and Millie also asked, why did I always approximate materials as isotropic, even if layered like Bi2Te3?

This challenge stuck, and eventually spurred me into trying to understand anisotropy effects on thermal transport.

Phonon focusing…

…can reduce the thermal boundary conductance…

…as well as further reduce already low c-axis thermal conductivity.

Millie also was a great mentor, supporter, and warm human being.

  • Always ready to talk and collaborate with anyone, with no concern about how grand or modest their institution.

  • Carefully reading my manuscripts: correcting "naiive" to "naïve"; advising on how to respond to reviewers' comments (for a paper she was not even a co-author of).

  • Concerned with young people: she pulled me aside at a conference for a one-on-one conversation about my first years as an assistant professor.

  • She led by example, and I try to emulate her best traits in my own career and life.


"Follow your interests, get the best available education and training, set your sights high, be persistent, be flexible, keep your options open, accept help when offered, and be prepared to help others."


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