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Editor Q&A Session: Sam Zhang

CRC Press is pleased to share with you our editor Q&A session with Sam Zhang, editor of Advances in Magnetic Materials: Processing, Properties, and Performance.

Professor Sam Zhang Shanyong, better known as Sam Zhang, received his Ph.D in Ceramics in 1991 from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, and is a tenured full professor (since 2006) at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University. Prof. Zhang was the founding Editor-in-Chief for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Letters (2008–2015) and Principal Editor for Journal of Materials Research (USA) responsible for thin films and coating field (since 2003). Prof. Zhang has been in processing and characterization of nanocomposite thin films and coatings for more than 25 years and has authored/co-authored more than some 300 peer reviewed international journal papers, 12 books, and 23 book chapters and guest edited 13 journal volumes special issues. From Scopus webpage as at 29 Jun 2016: his Total Articles in Publication List: 298 Articles Sum of the Times Cited: 6586, h-index: 45.

Professor Zhang is the series editor for the CRC Press book series Advances in Materials Science and Engineering and has published multiple titles with CRC Press.

Click here to download a free chapter of Advances in Magnetic Materials: Processing, Properties, and Performance.

Q&A with Sam Zhang

Congratulations on the publication of your book Advances in Magnetic Materials. What do you want your audience to take away from the book?
Current advances in magnetic materials (thin films, coatings, and bulk included).

What inspired you to write this book?
Magnetic materials have been used in a wide range of applications in daily life, industries, medical, aerospace, aeronautics, and list goes on and on. This book, Advances in Magnetic Materials: Processing, Properties, and Performance, aims to capture the recent development of this category of materials in its fabrication, characterization, and applications in industries. With advances of nanotechnology and miniaturization, magnetism finds itself more and more important in many areas. It is time to capture the research in science and technology and put the endeavors and results in a book form for references or guides for newcomers.

What audience did you have in mind whilst writing you book?
Research students, professors, engineers, and technicians dealing with magnetism-related materials and devices.

What makes your book stand out from its competitors?
This book encompasses both bulk magnetic materials and magnetic thin films or coatings to provide a timely reference book for researchers to refer to and for newcomers to learn from.

This book includes lots of specialized forefront research areas yet it starts with a very general and basic chapter. Therefore, this book can nicely bridge basic knowledge and practical applications. This feature is highly beneficial to a wide range of readers including graduate students and active researchers.

Is there one piece of research included in the book which surprised you or challenged your previous understanding of the topic?
Nothing surprises me!

What did you enjoy about writing the book?
As with my other books, I paid special attention to make sure that enough details are included in each chapter, as a book chapter is not a journal paper and a book is the final resource from which a reader can expect to find the information he is looking for.  I believe I have achieved this.

What is your academic background?
I have been trained in Aerospace Materials, superalloys to be specific, in my undergraduate and Master’s studies in China. Then I moved on to Powder Metallurgy and Ceramics for my Ph.D. studies in University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

I have graduated Ph.D. students in the area of Hard yet Tough Coatings, Biomedical Coatings, Magnetic Materials/Data Storage Films, Electronic Films, and Thin Film Solar Cells.

You have recently started concentrating on solar cells. What attracted you to this as an area of study?
Energy matters to all mankind. The earth’s storage of energy is finite, in whatever form, especially fossil.  But solar energy is unlimited as long as the Sun does not die out. Therefore, in the long run, making use of solar energy is the ultimate way out for mankind.  As other governments, Singapore also realized this and made funding available for applications.  As such, switching to solar cell research is wise.

Just to add, recently I have published a long review paper (45 printed pages) in Progress in Materials Science journal that has an impact factor of more than 31: Towards high efficiency thin film solar cells, Progress in Materials Science, 87 : 246–291 (2017).

Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your teaching or writing style.
I go from basics. Understanding to the core of a problem, peeling all covering away. This way of thinking helps with knowing the world much better than swallowing a whole thing. And I also like to put complicated happenings in a timeline; this helps make analysing developments of science/technology, especially social and political scenes, crystal clear.

In teaching, I would like to understand the composition of the audience first. This would define the pitch of my talk.  Even with the same set of slides, my delivery of the talk could vary very much.  The most important thing in teaching or conference talk or whatever communication is to connect your audience.  You must start with the knowledge your audience already have. This is the linking bridge. Without this bridge, you lose your audience in one or two minute’s time.  Creating this bridge first, then building on from this, new knowledge is easily understood and accepted quickly.

Use layman’s language to illustrate jargon. Use life examples to explain difficult technical concepts (for instance, I would cite smelling of apple-pie to start with in order to teach diffusion; in China, I would say “diced stewed pork” or Hong Shao Rou; in Singapore I would say “lasi lamah”, a local favorite dish nobody doesn’t know).


What advice would you give to an aspiring researcher in your field?
My field is wide, yet it didn’t go outside materials: tribological materials, electronic materials, biological/biomedical materials, magnetic materials, energy materials, and so on.  Actually it does not matter which field you are in, the way to go into a field is the same: go from the basics as all sciences build on the same basics. Once you understand the basics, then you can quickly master the forefront.  This, of course, needs lots of reading and understanding. Don’t be afraid of hard work.  In literature reviewing, don’t be buried away in papers, always stay on top. Ignore details for now, focus on logic, and overall keep reminding yourself you want to understand the forest, not the individual trees (that can come naturally later).

Do you have plans for future books? What’s next in the pipeline for you?
Perhaps more book in the energy area or energy and devices.

I’m also thinking of writing a book on “how to get your papers published”. I have been invited to deliver talks of this topic in many universities in China and Taiwan. I can clearly see the need is there, urgent need.

What do you feel has been a highlight for you in your career?
Being promoted to a full professor some 12 years ago at age 50 could be counted as one.

The other thing I’m proud of is that my textbook published with CRC Materials Characterization Techniques, written by Sam Zhang, Lin Li, and Ashok Kumar, published by CRC Press, 344pp, Pub. date: 12/22/2008 ISBN 9781420042948; 1420042947 has been used as textbook in some 30 American and European universities as of October 2015.

I have also established the world’s only “Thin Films Society” that organises an international conference on thin films and coatings biennially which draws 600 to 800 researchers usually from 35 to 40 countries each time it convenes.  It feels rewarding being able to contribute to the society this way.

My recent publication of a high impact factor (more than 31) journal paper: Towards high efficiency thin film solar cells, Progress in Materials Science, 87 : 246–291 (2017) is another of which I am proud.

What is the last book you read (non-academic)?
I’m reading Chinese Medical Books in my spare time, taking notes/drawing diagrams of close to 200 slides.  Others are Chinese history, etc.

You have been involved in a number of publications with Taylor and Francis. What has encouraged you to continue working with us?
Actually all my 12 books except two are published with Taylor and Francis. Your editors are very professional and helpful as always. Of course, good royalty rates also encourage.

Advances in Magnetic Materials Reviews

"This book, edited by a leading expert on materials and nanotechnology, Dr. Sam Zhang, provides a comprehensive view of the current state of the field on magnetic materials and how these materials are enabling advances in the fundamental science and innovative applications."
— Anupama B. Kaul, University of Texas, El Paso, USA

"Although this book includes lots of specialized forefront research areas, it starts with very general and basic chapter. Therefore, this book can nicely bridge basic knowledge and practical applications. This feature is highly beneficial to wide range of readers including graduate students and active researchers."
Katsuhiko Ariga, WPI-MANA, National Institute for Materials Science, Ibaraki, Japan

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