Faculty Profile

Nicola Helen Perry

Materials Science and Engineering
Nicola Helen Perry
Nicola Helen Perry
Assistant Professor
112 Materials Research Lab MC 230
104 S. Goodwin
Urbana Illinois 61801
(217) 300-6335

Primary Research Area

  • Materials for Energy and the Environment


  • PhD, Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University, 2009
  • BA (magna cum laude), French Studies, Rice University, 2005
  • BS (magna cum laude), Materials Science and Engineering, Rice University, 2005


Nicola H. Perry is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois, an Affiliate of the Materials Research Laboratory, and a WPI Assistant Professor in the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER) of Kyushu University. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Northwestern University in 2009, working with Thomas O. Mason on interfacial transport, permittivity, and defect behavior in nano-ionics for solid oxide fuel cells. After this she joined the Energy Frontier Research Center for Inverse Design as a postdoctoral fellow developing p-type transparent conducting oxides for photovoltaic applications and synthesizing ￿missing materials,￿ using a computationally-led discovery process. In 2012 she began splitting her time between Japan (at I2CNER) and the U.S. (at MIT, in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, with Harry L. Tuller), as a postdoctoral researcher (I2CNER) and visiting scholar (MIT). In 2014 she was promoted to the WPI Assistant Professor position in I2CNER, where she ran the ￿electro-chemo-mechanics￿ laboratory in the Electrochemical Energy Conversion division, taught international students, and continued as a Research Affiliate at MIT. Research at this most recent stage focused on mixed ionic and electronic conducting oxides for high temperature electrochemical energy conversion and storage. She joined the University of Illinois in January 2018.

Academic Positions

  • Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, 1/2018-Present
  • Affiliate Faculty, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Materials Research Laboratory, 1/2018-Present
  • WPI Assistant Professor, Kyushu University, International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (WPI-I2CNER), 8/2014-Present
  • Research Affiliate / Visiting Scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, 10/2012-1/2018
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Kyushu University, International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (WPI-I2CNER), 9/2012-8/2014
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Northwestern University / Energy Frontier Research Center for Inverse Design, Materials Science and Engineering, 12/2009-8/2012

For more information

Research Statement

Electro-chemo-mechanically active oxides enable a wide array of energy, processing, sensing, and electronic applications, but limitations in their charge transport, surface reactivity, and chemical expansion hinder efficiency and durability. A fundamental understanding of these point defect-mediated properties needs to be developed in order to enable rapid, rational design of optimized solid state ionics for improved device performance. Particularly, there is benefit in moving beyond conventional electro-chemical studies to consider the coupling between electrical, chemical, and mechanical states of materials, such as the lattice strain occurring upon non-stoichiometric composition changes during operation (chemical expansion). Our recent work has been focusing on development of design principles for fast oxygen surface exchange kinetics and the resulting chemical expansion in perovskite-structured ceramics that ￿breathe.￿ We measure surface oxygen exchange kinetics on model thin films fabricated by pulsed laser deposition, using in situ ac-impedance spectroscopy and a novel optical transmission relaxation technique. Controlled variation of overall film defect chemistry, outermost surface chemistry, orientation, and microstructure has enabled a better understanding of the relative importance of each. We study chemical expansion behavior across multiple length scales using in situ X-ray and neutron diffraction, thermogravimetric analysis, and dilatometry, with comparison to atomistic computational simulations. Such studies have enabled identification of structural and operational factors that can be applied to tailor chemical expansion behavior. We apply ac-impedance spectroscopy, equivalent circuit analysis, and microstructure models like the nano-Grain-Composite Model to evaluate and separate local interface/bulk ionic and electronic transport and polarization in bulk ceramic, thin film, heterostructured, and nanostructured materials. Overall, approaches to lower the chemical expansion coefficients (for durability) and increase the surface exchange kinetics and ionic/electronic transport (for efficiency) are being actively researched.

Research Interests

  • functional ceramics
  • oxides for energy conversion and storage
  • point defect-mediated properties: ionic/electronic transport, chemical expansion, surface reactivity
  • thin film growth by pulsed laser deposition
  • in situ/operando characterization (electrochemical, optical, structural)
  • interfacial and grain boundary electrochemical, electrical, and dielectric behavior
  • electro-chemo-mechanical coupling

Research Topics

Books Edited or Co-Edited (Original Editions)

Chapters in Books

Selected Articles in Journals

Articles in Conference Proceedings


  • DOE Early Career Research Award (2018)
  • Award for Encouragement of Research, International Union of Materials Research Societies (2017)
  • Kakenhi Grant-in-Aid For Young Scientists B, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (2015)
  • Kakenhi Grant-in-Aid For Young Scientists B, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (2013)
  • Future Leaders Program, International Congress on Ceramics, American Ceramic Society (2012)
  • Poster Award, Materials Research Society (2010)
  • Edward C. Henry Award, American Ceramic Society (2009)
  • Graduate Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation (2006)