Nasim Alem

Nasim Alem
  • Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
N-210 Millennium Science Complex
(814) 865-7928


Dr. Nasim Alem received her B.S. degree in Metallurgical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran and her M.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA. She did her PhD in Materials Science Department at Northwestern University in 2008.  Nasim has been a postdoctoral researcher in the Physics Department at University of California Berkeley and National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, before joining The Pennsylvania State University as an assistant professor in 2013. 

Alem’s PhD research was focused on the nanoscale mechanics and deformation behavior of confined interphases in multilayered metal-ceramic systems where she used transmission electron microscopy to investigate the role of chemistry, and size scale on the plasticity and deformation mechanism at small size scales. Alem’s postdoctoral research was focused on probing the atomic structure of defects and edges and their relaxations in two-dimensional crystals with the utilization of Ultra-high Resolution aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy.  During her postdoc, Alem also studied the formation, growth and dynamics of defects in two dimensional crystals, i.e. graphene and hexagonal boron nitride under insitu heating and electrical biasing conditions.  Alem joined the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Penn State on March 2013.

Academic Training

PhD, Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
M.S., Materials Science and Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA
B.S., Metallurgical Engineering, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran


Defects can modulate the electronic properties of crystals by introducing empty states within their band gap. When exposed to chemical functional groups, defects can trap molecules and adatoms resulting in significant changes to the catalytic and sensing properties of the crystal.  They can also act as nucleation sites for dislocations leading to deformation when the crystal is placed under stress.  Therefore it is crucial to understand the atomic and chemical structure of the defects within crystals before they can be nano-engineered for functional devices.  Modifying the atomic structure can significantly tailor materials properties making them suitable for a variety of applications such as energy and catalysis. 

Alem’s research focuses on the structurally driven aspects that can affect the resulting physical, chemical and mechanical properties of crystals, especially those used in catalysis and energy; where we probe and understand the effect of defects, vacancies, interfaces and grain boundaries on the chemical, physical and electronic properties of materials using imaging and spectroscopy techniques in transmission electron microscopy.  Our group is also interested in the evolution of defects, edges, grain boundaries and interfaces and nanoscale mass transport in nanostructures under thermal and electrical loading using in situ TEM.

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