Dr. Zina Jarrahi Cinker is a young, dedicated physicist driven by the prospect of a world changed by Graphene, a relatively new discovery, but seen as a possible global game-changer in the future.
In 2010, Zina was a 24-year-old Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University just beginning to shape an extraordinary career that has led her to now become Executive Director of the newly formed National Graphene Association.
“All of a sudden it seemed like ‘now this is where science fiction meets reality,’” she recalls when in 2010 she learned that graphene won the Nobel prize for Physics.
“When I first learned about graphene, I couldn’t think of anything more interesting to do but graphene, and that is what I have been doing ever since,” she said.
Dr. Jarrahi Cinker received her Ph.D. in condensed matter and ultrafast spectroscopy focusing solely on graphene. Graphene was discovered in 2004 and is the thinnest and strongest material ever known to man. Applications for its use are being seen in every field from tennis rackets, to nano-bombs that target and kill specific cancers, to a new generation of unparalleled energy storage cells that may power future transportation, to conductive and anti-corrosive paints that could be used for ships and homes.
The young graphene scientist is determined to forge the National Graphene Association into “a platform for all graphene stakeholders to come together, communicate, collaborate and drive the commercialization of graphene in the United States and beyond,” Jarrahi Cinker said.
“If you’re a player in the graphene field, or you would like to explore whether or not graphene could be used in your process and product, there’s a community for you that can provide the expert information, collaborative opportunities and services that you need.”
Dr. Jarrahi Cinker is working with Dr. Ed Meek, founder of the NGA, and Allison Buchanan, CEO of New Media Lab, LLC.
Dr. Jarrahi Cinker stated that while she and Meek are from different backgrounds, they share an entrepreneurial mindset and have a collective interest in seeing graphene achieve its commercial potential.
“He’s an entrepreneur with an immense fascination and interest in graphene,” she said.
“With my multi-faceted experience in graphene and his extensive experience in the large scale international event and exhibition space, we felt we could join forces and create a superior association for graphene. Our goal is to make NGA different than everything else that’s being done and to help the community in an unprecedented way in the U.S.”
While holding a research associate appointment at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Jarrahi Cinker began an application development and consulting business in the graphene sector focusing on companies that were looking to integrate graphene into their existing products.
She quickly realized the challenges that exist in the commercialization of graphene.
“One of the things I always tell my clients is that, ‘The good news is, you’re the first one who’ll be doing this, and the bad news is that you’ll be the first one who’ll be doing this,” she said.
“With graphene, there is still no set pathway,” she added. “There is not enough experience in the field and there are many challenges that you wouldn’t experience unless you were in such a new and emerging industry.”
One of the main problems with the industry, and subsequent goals of the NGA, is that a method of standardization needs to be implemented. Currently, there are many products on the market sold as “graphene,” but unless the user has access to the tools to test it, or they follow a standard procedure, it is difficult to make a determination.
“It’s like the wild west, and you don’t know what you’re getting. I used to tell my clients, ‘you’re going to need a Sherpa, because the path isn’t already paved. You need someone who has dealt with these challenges and can help you avoid the dangers and pitfalls because there are no standards in place’.”
Dr. Jarrahi Cinker added, “At the moment, we’re lacking an organized momentum in our efforts to commercialize graphene, especially in the United States.”
“There are a lot of players in the graphene game, many of whom we don’t even know about, and that is not just due to NDAs and confidentiality. When I started my business, I was surprised at how many people are looking into the adoption of graphene and how many fail because they don’t have the understanding, critical information or the resources to deal with an advanced material which is not standardized,” she said.
Dr. Ed Meek, Founder and President of the NGA and the newly launched news division, GrapheneEntrepreneur.com, said, “This is where the National Graphene Association comes in. It is a community to drive innovation and facilitate the commercialization of graphene, and most importantly, it’s a place for anyone who is in this field or who is interested in graphene. The opportunity is at hand, we just have to capitalize on it and ‘connect, innovate and create,’” which is why we selected this theme for the focus of the National Graphene Association.”
Jared Senseman is the Editor in Chief of GrapheneEntrepreneur.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on membership benefits of the National Graphene Association, click here.
Graphene Entrepreneur is a division of the National Graphene Association. The Mission of the NGA is to bring together current and future graphene stakeholders — entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, developers and suppliers, investors, venture capitalists and government agencies — to drive innovation, and to promote and facilitate the commercialization of graphene products and technologies in the United States.
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