Ethan Susca

Postdoctoral Research Scholar

Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering / Cornell University

B.S. Engineering / Harvey Mudd College


Research description:

The understanding and control of ion conduction in the solid state will provide improvements in a number of energy storage and conversion devices including batteries, fuel cells, and solar cells. Polymers are poised as idea platforms for the study of ion transport because they are mechanically robust with tailorable physical and chemical properties. 

My research at UCSB is at the intersection of polymeric ionic liquids and stimuli-responsive materials. Using light as the stimulus, I am designing systems that will exhibit the reversible control of ion conduction and mechanical property changes that occur with the release or capture of ions within a polymer matrix. A second projects uses bound paramagnetic ions that yield paramagnetic polymers which have possible use as soft actuators or MRI contrast agents. I’m very excited to see how processing can be used to optimize structure to yield improved performance in any one of these ion-containing polymer systems.


I grew up in Stockton California, where my high school hobby was engineering air cannons (see: spud guns) from PVC pipes and sprinkler valves. This early introduction into engineering paved the way to study general engineering at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont CA, where I received my BS. After undergrad, I veered from academia for a year and did a short stint at Intel's high volume manufacturing facility in Chandler Arizona as both a process engineer and as a yield analysis nano probe engineer. Afterwards, I traveled to Ithaca NY where I got a PhD in materials science studying block copolymer self-assembly under the direction of Lara Estroff and Uli Wiesner at Cornell University. I am still convinced fundamental research is what I want to be doing (in whatever context keeps in me in California), so that’s why I joined the awesomely collaborative labs at UCSB under the direction of Profs. Rachel Segalman, Javier Read De Alaniz, and Chris Bates. When I am not researching, I swim, hike, snowboard, listen to podcasts, and read nonfiction books.