Patrick Hopkins was impressed with the opportunities he was afforded for hands-on research as a third-year undergraduate at U.Va. This experience influenced his decision to stay at U.Va. to pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering. “My work at U.Va. has helped me to realize that I want to pursue a career in research,” says Hopkins. “The ability to identify a problem and investigate it from basic science principles is very appealing to me.”
Hopkins works with Professor Pam Norris in the nationally recognized Microscale Heat Transfer Laboratory to solve a challenge brought on by the nanoelectronic craze. As everyday electronic devices like MP3 players and cell phones become ever smaller, their electrical components become tinier too and are packed even closer together. This miniaturization generates a greater power density that can increase device operating temperatures, which can result in the device overheating and malfunctioning. “I study heat transfer across materials, specifically nanomaterials,” says Hopkins. “We look for ways to efficiently get the heat out of a region of the device or out of the device entirely.” Hopkins notes that the next generation Intel Pentium microprocessor has been held up due to heat transfer issues—proof that his graduate research has some definite and immediate practical applications.
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