Published: Nov. 14, 2023 By

Elliot Strand in a greenhouse.

This research is more than a scientific pursuit; it's a narrative that weaves together a lifelong curiosity, a love for nature, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world." - Elliot Strand

Elliot Strand (MatSci PhD'23) is being honored for his PhD research, “Printed Organic Electronics for Plant and Environmental Monitoring."

Strand successfully defended his thesis earlier this year and is now receiving the 2023 Best PhD Thesis Award from Sensors, a leading international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal on the science and technology of sensors.

He completed his PhD as a student in Prof. Gregory Whiting's Boulder Experimental Electronics and Manufacturing Laboratory and is now co-leading a startup to commercialize printed sensor technology.

What does it mean to you to be recognized by Sensors for your research?

Being recognized by Sensors for my PhD research is incredibly meaningful to me. I feel very honored by this acknowledgment.

A common theme throughout my dissertation is to address climate change through innovation, and the fact that the journal’s evaluation committee considers this work important is gratifying. It highlights the significance of addressing environmental concerns in the realm of sensor technology, and I am proud to contribute to this crucial area of study.

What did your dissertation focus on? “Printed organic electronics” sounds like wild and crazy technology of the future.

Printed organic electronics combines organic chemistry with printing technology to craft flexible and lightweight electronic devices.

What really excites me about this field is its scalability. Unlike conventional electronics manufacturing, printing techniques eliminate the need for high-temperature and vacuum environments, making it a cost-effective and accessible solution for mass production.

Furthermore, by leveraging solution-processed materials that can be stacked on top of one another, a wide range of products, from wearable health monitors to flexible solar cells and environmental sensors, can be efficiently produced. 

What interested you in this kind of research?

Since childhood, I've been captivated by electronics. I vividly recall spending hours in my parent's basement, dissecting old electronic components to unravel the puzzle of how the pieces fit together.

Simultaneously, my love for nature has served as a constant thread throughout my life, evident in the time devoted to exploring natural spaces. 

As I matured, it felt only natural to intertwine these two passions. This research, for me, is more than a scientific pursuit; it's a narrative that weaves together a lifelong curiosity, a love for nature, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world.

Why did you decide to come to CU Boulder for grad school?

When considering graduate school options, the CU MSE program immediately stood out. Renowned for their world-class expertise and innovative research, the faculty members amplify the program’s appeal.

Additionally, CU Boulder’s strong focus on sustainability aligns perfectly with my passion for merging electronics with a commitment to a greener future. 

And of course what better place to live for conducting scientific research and spending time in the great outdoors!  

Now that you’d completed your PhD, what’s next for you?

Having completed my PhD, my collaborator and I are embarking on an exciting venture. We've just recently formed a startup company called Printed Agricultural and Environmental (PAGE) Technologies, aiming to commercialize the printed sensor technology we've developed over the past few years.

Our goal is to offer farmers a comprehensive monitoring platform to assist them in reducing fertilizer usage while concurrently increasing crop yields and net profits. It's an innovative step toward sustainable and efficient agricultural practices, and we're eager to contribute to the positive impact on both growers and the environment.

Interested in finding out more about Strand's work? Read his thesis online: “Printed Organic Electronics for Plant and Environmental Monitoring."