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Center for Nanothread Chemistry Captures Humanity of Scientists through Storytelling

8 June 2022
video still of Vin Crespi

How do scientists become scientists? What does it feel like when a great idea becomes reality, and what do scientists do when their ideas fail? Members of the Center for Nanothread Chemistry—led by researchers at Penn State and funded by the National Science Foundation—recently sought to explore such complicated questions by interviewing scientists about the roadblocks faced throughout their careers. Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the group interviewed senior center members about their experiences as scientists in academia. These conversations, which occurred over Zoom, are publicly available at the center’s website:

In addition to Penn State, the center includes researchers from Cornell, Brandeis, and New York University. The collaborative team of scientists works to study the formation and properties of a remarkable material: the thinnest threads of diamond. In the first video, Penn State physicist and chemist Vincent Crespi recalled how diamond threads known as nanothreads were accidently discovered at Penn State in 2014 thanks to an equipment malfunction. Additional videos have explored the intersection of art and science, work-life balance, life as an assistant professor, and career hurdles.  

The goal of these videos is to allow students and faculty in the center to enter an environment where they can talk about nearly anything. Center members hope this openness helps create a space where all members feel comfortable sharing data and creative, off-the-wall ideas as well as their experiences and opinions—a crucial step in creating an inclusive and equitable learning environment.