The first call Robinson made was to his dad; the second, to his brother.
Robinson sees major awards like this one as a way to achieve recognition amid a competitive field. He hopes it will help his work attract interest and funding, which in turn may lead to more breakthroughs and publications.
But recognition for its own sake is not his goal, he says. "The work is a creative outlet, and that is the driver for me going to the lab. It's very nice when those two meet up, in that your creative outlet can be recognized with an award like this. It feels very special."
Robinson credits collaboration across the NRL campus as essential to his early success. "I might talk to my postdoc advisor [Dr. Eric Snow] about this kind of problem. And he says, 'You should go talk to Paul in chemistry. You should go talk to Maxim in acoustics.' I think a lot of the interesting, new discoveries happen at those interfaces."
At NRL, he has become more connected to how his research improves technologies. "It's clear that you can't just survive on the core sciences alone here, you have to make yourself relevant for these end applications. I've shifted my thinking and efforts as best I can to plug into the application space of the Navy and Marine Corps. When I'm doing basic research, I'm thinking, how does it connect to sensing or electronics or mechanical systems?"
Robinson grew up in Friendsville, a town of 500 in western Maryland. Math always came to him easily, but it wasn't until his undergrad at Towson University that he became interested in materials science.
Working toward his 2007 PhD at UC Berkeley, he built on his technical knowledge by studying how nature organizes materials at the nanoscale and the properties that arise (with germanium, in particular): "There's two strategies to go very small: one is with a hammer and chisel; a mo
|Contact: Kyra Wiens|
Naval Research Laboratory