Skip to main content
psu nittany lion shrine

Graduate Student Highlight: Sikai Wu

18 August 2021
Wu, Sikai

Each week, the Department of Chemistry highlights a graduate student who is doing interesting and exciting work within the department. In this installment of our highlight series, we are featuring Sikai Wu, who is a fifth-year graduate student working in the Center for Nanothread Chemistry. Sikai was formerly a member of the Badding group, led by the late Professor of Chemistry John Badding; she is now a member of the Crespi and Terrones groups.

Sikai’s research is focused on carbon nanothread materials, a type of ultrathin one-dimensional diamond-like carbon nanomaterials made by pressure-induced polymerization of organic small molecules. In particular, she is interested in understanding how nanothreads are formed under pressure, how to design nanothreads with unique functionalities and properties through precursor engineering and how to enable their large-scale production, exfoliation and processing, which will benefit their potential applications. 

This week, we met virtually with Sikai to discuss her life in and outside of the lab! Please enjoy our interview with Sikai Wu.

Question: How did you get interested in chemistry?

Answer: When I was in high school, I learned that chemistry is involved in every aspect of our everyday life and can affect our environment both positively and negatively. So, I thought that if I became a chemist, I could help create more good things and undo the bad ones.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of? (Either as a scientist, or otherwise)

A: I’m most proud of being an active team member of our nanothread center to pull off the NSF phase II review during a very difficult time.

Q: Why did you decide to come to Penn State?

A: I was attracted to the collaborative research environment and was also very curious about the high-pressure research on the Badding group’s website.

Q: Where did you grow up? (Tell us a fun fact about your hometown if you want)

A: I grew up in Guangdong, China, and I moved a lot within the province as a child, going to school in different cities. As a proud Cantonese, I highly recommend Cantonese cuisine to anyone who hasn’t tried it yet.

Q: Do you have any hobbies?

A: I like puzzles, doodling, origami, hiking, and watching movies.

Q: What’s your dream vacation? 

A: It would be to explore new things or places with my loved ones without worrying too much about running out of time or money and other things like the pandemic and such.

Q: What’s your favorite book or movie?

A: There are probably too many. One of my favorite books is A Chance of Sunshine by Jimmy Liao. As for movies, The Legend of 1900 is one of my all-time favorites, and I also enjoy movies by Miyazaki Hayao.

Bonus Question: Do you have any fun science trivia to share?

A: Diamond anvil cells are not only an important tool for high pressure research, but they are also used in forensic laboratories to analyze trace evidence.

Thanks to Sikai for these interesting and thoughtful answers! We hope you enjoyed this interview. Stay tuned for more graduate student highlights in the weeks to come!