Professor Baratunde Cola

Dr. Baratunde Cola was born in Detroit, MI on March 17, 1981; the youngest of the three children of Anthony and Angela Cola. He moved with his family to his mother’s home town of Pensacola, FL when he was 5 years old. He attended Escambia county public schools, and graduated from McAuthur Elementary, Brown-Barge Middle, and Woodham High Schools. At Woodham, he was an honor student, a Boys State participant, a first-team selection to the All-Big Six as a tight end for Woodham’s football team. He was elected into the Woodham High School Hall of Fame. In addition to begin engaged as a student athlete, Dr. Cola was a member of Boy Scout Troop 451 in Pace, FL and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

After leaving Pensacola for college, Dr. Cola received his B.E (2002) and M.S. (2004) from Vanderbilt University and his Ph.D. (2008) from Purdue University, all in mechanical engineering. At Vanderbilt, Dr. Cola was actively involved in research while playing on the Vanderbilt Football Team. These activities contributed to his winning the School of Engineering Stein Stone Memorial Award and the Football Team Dedication Award. Dr. Cola “walked on” to the football team, and earned a scholarship as a starting fullback in his final year after recovering from two ACL injuries to his right knee. (here the story here http://storycollider.org/podcast/2014-04-15)

At Purdue, he was honored with an Intel Foundation Fellowship, a Purdue Doctoral Fellowship, and a NASA Institute of Nanoelectronics and Computing Fellowship. He was also the recipient of the Purdue College of Engineering’s “Outstanding Dissertation Award” for his research on photoacoustic characterization of carbon nanotube array thermal interfaces. He met his amazing wife at Purdue who continues to support and contribute to his achievements.

Dr. Cola’s work is both fundamental and applied, and has been featured in several news sources including Electronic Engineering Times, IEEE Spectrum, Science Daily, Phys.org, C&E News, and the Baltimore Times. Dr. Cola has made several pioneering contributions to the fields of nanotechnology and energy. He invented and demonstrated the world’s first optical rectenna, which promises ultrahigh efficiency conversion of IR and optical electromagnetic waves to electricity. He is also the first to discover an amorphous polymer with high thermal conductivity and the first to demonstrate thermally conductive pure polymer in a practical application. He is the first to demonstrate thermal energy conduction by phonon polairtons using polar nanoparticle assemblies, where conduction due to polaritons is engineered to be 18 times higher than phonon conduction. He is one of the most widely cited researchers in thermal interface materials and has made seminal contributions to the understanding and reduction of thermal contact resistance to carbon nanotubes. He is a key member of the team that demonstrated the first practical thermo-electrochemical cells for waste heat recovery, using carbon nanotube electrodes. He is a tireless advocate for sharing these research breakthroughs with the public and exploiting them for commerce and societal benefit. He has had the privilege of leading a superstar team of researchers who contributed to the success of each of these projects.

Dr. Cola is an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a 2015-16 Martin Luther King Jr. visiting professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research is a combination of both fundamental and applied activities, which bring new scientific concepts to thermal and energy science applications. Dr. Cola is currently focused on understanding and designing thermal transport and energy conversion in nanostructures and devices – particularly those based on carbon nanotubes or conjugated polymers.  His group develops tools to characterize thermal transport across several orders of scale for this purpose. His research interests also include scalable fabrication of organic and organic-inorganic hybrid nanostructures for novel technological use. These technologies include thermal interface materials, thermo-electrochemical cells, optical rectenna, carbon nanotube metal composites, and materials that can be tuned to regulate the flow of heat. Dr. Cola and his collaborators have received over 15 extramural grants to support their work so far. Support from NSF, DARPA, U.S. Air Force, Samsung, U.S. Army, and Georgia Research Alliance has averaged $1 million annually since Dr. Cola began his career. He has published over 65 papers (over 1,200 citations by Google Scholar) and 9 issued or pending patents (3 licensed to or created in a startup company). Dr. Cola is director of the NEST Lab and co-founder and co-director of the Heat Lab (http://heat.gatech.edu/) at Georgia Tech, a multidisciplinary center with over 25 affiliated faculty and over 100 affiliated students. He is also co-founder of the Academic and Research Leadership Network (www.arlnetwork.org), a network of Ph.D. engineering researchers from underrepresented groups who are excellent in their field. He is also on the Board of Advisors for the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Cola is PI on an NSF RET site designed to integrate art and engineering research in the K-12 classroom.