Charles Liang

Charles Liang is from Carmel, just north of Indianapolis, Indiana.  He is a junior majoring in Applied Physics and minoring in Applied Mathematics with research interests in sustainable energy, condensed matter physics, and materials science.  In spring 2017, Charles will be studying abroad at University of Oxford, St. Catherine’s College.

Charles Liang

During summer 2016, Charles conducted biophysics research on Bacillus subtilis spores that are quite responsive to humidity changes in the Sahin Laboratory under the guidance of Prof. Sahin.  In particular, Charles investigated and tested various adhesives that bind B. subtilis spores, which expand and contract greatly due to changes in humidity, onto a substrate and then characterized their performance (e.g. radius of curvature and speed of bending).  Since there are humidity changes due to the natural evaporation of water, B. subtilis spore-based materials have potential applications in creating clean energy, evaporation-driven engines and generators.

To expand his research horizons, during summer 2015, Charles conducted biomedical physics research in the Laboratory for Functional Optical Imaging under the guidance of Columbia Prof. Hillman.  He conducted research on using ultrafast laser pulses on imaging the brain of mice and the living brain of fruit flies using light sheet microscopy.  Then, he used computational methods to try to improve the image quality of resulting brain images.

Charles went to Carmel High School (CHS), where he discovered his interest in physics, research, and environmental community service. Charles has conducted research in quantum physics under the guidance of Prof. Yogesh Joglekar at Indiana University –Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI).  He investigated how special matrices called PT (Parity and Time)-symmetric Hamiltonians can better model how light flows in optical fiber networks and potentially lead to improved light transmission.  As a result of his work, Charles has been recognized as a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search and Siemens Competition and as a Third Award winner (Physics & Astronomy category) at Intel ISEF, while also holding a first author publication in the journal Physical Review A.  His experiences in the lab have helped him further his passion in physics.

In his free time, Charles enjoys swimming, playing the violin, practicing Chinese calligraphy and practicing French with friends.  He is outreach director of the Society of Physics Students, and in fall 2015, Charles founded the student initiative Phones4Education.  Charles, along with several friends, won an Engineering Student Council Grant to start a pilot program for the project in spring 2016.  Their project is to seek used smartphones/tablets/e-readers donations, download free educational apps, podcasts, and eBooks (e.g. Khan Academy, TED, and Project Gutenberg’s free e-books), and then donate these devices to local underserved students, such as those in foster care through a partnership with Columbia Law School’s Adolescent Representation Clinic.  Charles hopes to grow the Phones4Education student group.  In the future, Charles aspires to pursue a career in academia, hoping to conduct clean energy research to help those that are less fortunate, including the nearly two billion in the world without access to electricity.