Jacob Jones is a Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State. Prior to leading STEPS, he served as director of the Analytical Instrumentation Facility (AIF), a leading materials characterization facility in the U.S., and as director and PI of the Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network (RTNN), a site in the NSF-supported National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI). Through his roles at the AIF and RTNN, he led work that supported diverse disciplines and spearheaded several interdisciplinary initiatives, including collaborations with plant, soil, and natural resource scientists, social scientists, data scientists, and water researchers. One of these projects was selected in a highly competitive Game-Changing Research Incentive Program (GRIP) and supported several students, postdocs, and faculty over a three-year period to work on projects related to Water Sustainability Using Nanotechnology. The GRIP was one of several leveraging points for establishing STEPS. Through his role in the RTNN, Jones also led the NNCI Diversity Subcommittee, which seeks to broaden participation in the NNCI and nanotechnology nationally by positively impacting culture, developing assessment strategies, sharing and disseminating best practices, and inspiring and challenging each other.
Jones earned a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, after which he worked as an engineer in a leading manufacturer of plumbing fixtures. He earned his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue through distance education and night classes before returning to Purdue’s main campus to earn his Ph.D. in Materials Engineering. He completed an NSF-funded international postdoctoral fellowship at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and was an Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Florida prior to joining NC State in 2013.
Jones’ research group works on a variety of inorganic materials synthesis and state-of-the-art characterization projects. One of his core areas of expertise applied in STEPS is the use of synchrotron X-ray and neutron scattering, in situ in various environments, to study the crystallographic structure of engineered materials and how their structures enable their function. Jones has published over 250 papers in scientific journals, has trained and mentored 20 PhD students as their Ph.D. advisor, and led several training projects for undergraduate and graduate students to obtain international research experiences as well as high school teachers, community college teachers, and students to undertake research in nanotechnology facilities. Jones is a Fellow of the IEEE Society and the American Ceramic Society and has received numerous research awards including an NSF CAREER award, a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), and the 2019 NC State Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award. The quality of Jones’ mentoring and teaching activities are evidenced by his receiving the NC State George H. Blessis Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award, the UF-HHMI Science for Life Distinguished Mentor Award, and his being elected into the Research Leadership Academy at NC State, a faculty-driven epicenter of research leadership and faculty mentoring.
Jones is a first-generation college student from rural Indiana, providing a deep-rooted appreciation for STEPS future impacts on students and environmental and agricultural systems. He also embraces a flexitarian diet, which means he relies more on food produced from plants and less on food produced from animals, which reduces his personal phosphorus footprint. Using his significant administrative experience from the AIF and RTNN, his capacity to bring together researchers from highly diverse disciplines, and his innate interdisciplinary perspectives, he is in constant pursuit of the STEPS 25-in-25 vision.