EECS Grads Making a Difference in the World

Dr. Nobuyuki (Nobi) Kambe. PhD \'82, is a Founder and CTO of NanoGram Corporation in Silicon Valley

Dr. Nobuyuki (Nobi) Kambe. PhD \'82, is a Founder and CTO of NanoGram Corporation in Silicon Valley

Dr. Nobuyuki (Nobi) Kambe is a Founder and CTO of NanoGram Corporation in Silicon Valley, where he directs development of a range of technologies based on nanoparticles, nanocomposites, and laser deposition methods: including applications in display, batteries and solar cells.

His path to NanoGram followed an unusual route. After receiving his PhD from MIT in 1982, he returned to Japan as an applied physics and optical device researcher at NTT (Nippon Telegraph & Telephone) Electrical Communications Laboratories, then Japan’s largest corporate entity.

Thirteen years later he made the transition from a corporate research career to a tiny R&D discovery venture, and moved to Silicon Valley. A key driver in the decision for this change was the creation and development of disruptive technology, and the opportunity to impact next-generation technology businesses. He believes a small-size venture is a great platform to efficiently create an innovative and even very fundamental technology.

MIT played a significant role at each transition in his career. Because he fulfilled his minor requirement with courses at Sloan School, Kambe recalled, “I learned the value of diversity, entrepreneurship, and crosscultural
approaches to problems, in addition to my engineering training at EECS.” During his graduate years, he was naturally exposed to a broad range of students, faculty, and visitors with distinct backgrounds and cultures.

In Kambe’s view, this diversity and broad network of backgrounds is the essence of MIT’s creativity. “When even a UROP student can write a topnotch academic paper, one learns to respect contributions from any source, and multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural skills are naturally nurtured.”

MIT was catalytic in the creation of NanoGram. Kambe explained, “My supervisor at MIT, Professor Millie Dresselhaus introduced me to a post doc who became later a co-founder of the original nanomaterials venture. I began a precursor venture of this nanomaterials venture with this post doc, together with his Ph.D. supervisor who was also a former post doc in the Dresselhaus group during my graduate years.” His journey in nanomaterials and their industrial applications in photonics, energy, and recently life science, was truly empowered by the breadth and depth of engineering and science combined at MIT.

Kambe noted: “In general, an entrepreneurial career path might not be an obvious choice for a basic technology researcher. However, MIT taught me there is little limitation in one’s career. Therefore I did not feel much of a hurdle when I decided to jump from a stable and established job in a giant organization to a high-risk challenge in a venture environment, while I attempted to stay in such a fundamental field as nanomaterials. In Silicon Valley, countless venture firms have been founded by MIT Alumni. Great brains taking large risks in challenging fields reflect the exceptional nature of MIT.”

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