Lab Affiliation(s):
Michael S. Strano
Michael S. Strano
Areas of Expertise:
  • Materials Science
  • Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
  • Nanotechnology
Expected date of graduation:
June 1, 2019

Albert Liu

  • PhD


  • Chemical Engineering

Lab Affiliation(s): 

Michael S. Strano


Michael S. Strano

Top 3 Areas of Expertise: 

Materials Science
Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Personal Statement: 

Coming from a family of academics, I aspire to teach science and engineering at a collegiate level. My undergraduate experience was in a way very unique, in that I obtained two degrees at two different colleges (BA in Chemistry at Grinnell College and BS in Chemical Engineering at California Institute of Technology). While my experiences at both schools were quite different due to their respective cultures as a liberal arts college and an engineering institute, one consistent theme throughout my academic career was my commitment towards mentoring fellow classmates. Recently, I served as the graduate TA of Transport Phenomena in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. My recitations were very well received. As a result, I was nominated to receive the Goodwin Teaching Medal (awarded annually to one “conspicuously effective” graduate TA at MIT) and was selected as the best graduate TA of the department.  I believe this experience had further honed my teaching skills and prepared me for my future goal as a college professor. If possible, I am planning on TAing more classes during my years at MIT; because for me, giving back what I have learned and seeing it evoke passion in the mentee really is the most satisfying thing there is.

Expected date of graduation: 

June 1, 2019


Thesis Title: 

Conformational analysis guided molecular transformation, nano-fabrication, and energy generation processes

Thesis Abstract: 

Accurate analyses of the molecular conformation of small organic moieties can yield structural insights that inform the design and engineering of functional components such as enzymatic protein scaffolds, template-directed molecular recognition centers, etc. These intricate catalytic manifolds are ubiquitous in nature, and molecular conformations that are sensitive to external stimuli underpin the fundamental regulating mechanisms for many important chemical and biochemical processes. In my graduate thesis, I present examples of conformational equilibrium as resolved by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, with an emphasis on the dihedral rotational preferences of C–C σ bonds in the presence of a chelating metallic ion. Explorations in catalytic chemical transformations guided by precise conformational control is also covered, specifically on the development of the asymmetric synthesis of alkylboronate esters via alkyl-alkyl cross-coupling. In addition, I introduce the concepts of Thermopower Waves (TPWs) and Asymmetric Chemical Doping (ACD), which exploit a conformational dependent interaction between small molecules and quantum-confined low dimensional materials to great effect towards high specific power electrical energy generation. Lastly, I demonstrate how defect confirmation can be controlled as means of nano-fabrication, to spontaneously asseble 2D molecular surfaces into envelope structures, allowing precise compositing of particulate devices and extending nanoelectronics into previously inaccessible environments. 

Top 5 Awards and honors (name of award, date received): 

MIT Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award (2017)
AIChE Carbon Nanomaterials Graduate Student Award (1st place) (2016)
MIT Presidential Graduate Fellowship (2014)
Caltech Jack E. Froehlich Memorial Award (2013)
Andrew W. Archibald Prize for Highest Scholarship, Valedictorian (2013)

5 Recent Papers: 

Liu, A. T., Kunai, Y. et al. (2016), "Electrical Energy Generation via Reversible Chemical Doping on Carbon Naotube Fibers," Advanced Materials, 28, 9752-9757.

Liu, A. T., Mahajan, S. G. et al. (2016), "Sustainable Power Sources Based on High Efficiency Thermopower Wave Devices," Energy and Environmental Science, 9, 1290-1298.

Schmidt, J., Choi, J.; Liu, A. T. et al. (2016), "A General, Method for the Catalytic Asymmetric Synthesis of Alkylboronate Esters via Alkyl-Alkyl Cross-Coupling," Science, 354, 1265-1269.

Liu, A. T. et al. (2014), "Analytical Solution for Transient Partitioning and Reaction of a Condensing Vapor Species in a Droplet," Atmospheric Environment, 89, 651-654.

Liu, A. T. et al. (2013), "Conformational Equilibria of N,N-Dimethylsuccinamic Acid and Its Lithium Salt as a Function of Solvent," Organic Letters, 15, 760-763.

Contact Information:
77 Massachusetts Ave. Room 66-564