Electrical Engineering Professor Jonathan Fan encourages students to dream big, work hard, and make it happen!
What made you decide to be a professor, and what made you want to be at Stanford?
I decided to become a professor during graduate school when I realized that I had a real passion in the "problem creation" stage -- there is nothing more exciting than coming up with a fresh new idea together with other like-minded people, and academia is the perfect job for that. Stanford is a great place for this because it truly has the best people (students, staff, and faculty) and a very open environment that encourages cross-disciplinary thinking.
How did you choose your field of research?
I've always had an interest in optics, even before understanding it as an academic subject -- it's just so visually striking in everyday life. I also had the opportunity to grow up at a time when optically-based technology (information, displays, storage, etc.) really ramped up, so it was easy to get excited about the topics when I started taking classes in them in college. As for my specific research expertise, I was certainly influenced by my mentors and teachers, who played a large role in sharing with me interesting concepts and problems.
Who has influenced your work and why.
My parents, both of whom have PhDs, cultivated in me a drive to think deeply and out of the box. I am truly in debt really to all of my teachers and mentors -- I can point to many high school, college, and graduate school teachers who have really changed the way I think. And of course, my graduate and postdoctoral advisors have been key figures in my intellectual development, they really set the bar high and led by example.
Briefly explain a project you are currently working on.
I am interested in understanding how to engineer mechanically-soft optoelectronic platforms, including those that can be integrated on the body, as a driver towards the next generation of diagnostic and display technologies.
What advice do you have for new EE students?
Just dream big, work hard, and make it happen -- you are at a very special junction of your life where you have the people, resources, and time to do something profound, so take advantage of it!