Nicola Helen Perry

Nicola Helen Perry
Nicola Helen Perry
Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Eng.
(217) 300-6335
102 Seitz Materials Research Lab

For More Information


  • 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 and an Affiliate of the Materials Research Laboratory. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Northwestern University in 2009, for investigating interfacial transport behavior in nano-ionics with Thomas O. Mason. After this she joined the Energy Frontier Research Center for Inverse Design as a postdoctoral fellow developing p-type transparent conducting oxides and synthesizing missing materials. From 2012-2014 she was a postdoctoral researcher at the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER) at Kyushu University, Japan, and a visiting scholar at MIT, working with Harry L. Tuller. From 2014-2017 she served as a WPI Assistant Professor in I2CNER and as a Research Affiliate at MIT, where her research 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 and has since built a research group focusing on tailoring and understanding point defect-mediated properties in electro-chemo-mechanically active oxides. Her research has been recognized with a NSF CAREER Award, DOE Early Career Award, JSPS Kakehni Awards, IUMRS Award for Encouragement of Research, J. Bruce Wagner, Jr. Award from the Electrochemical Society, and the Edward C. Henry Award of the American Ceramic Society.

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), 8/2014-3/2020
  • 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

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) and the impact of strain on transport. Our recent work has been focusing on development of design principles for high anion/cation conductivity, fast oxygen/steam 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, halides
  • Solid state ionics for energy conversion and storage
  • Point defect-mediated properties: ionic/electronic transport, chemical expansion, catalytic activity
  • Thin film growth by pulsed laser deposition
  • Electro-chemo-mechanical coupling
  • Characterization in high temperatures & controlled gas atmospheres (electrochemical, optical, thermo-mechanical, structural)
  • Interfaces and grain boundaries

Books Edited or Co-Edited (Original Editions)

Chapters in Books

Selected Articles in Journals

Teaching Honors

  • List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (Spring 2022)
  • List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent (Spring 2020)

Research Honors

  • NSF CAREER Award (2020)
  • J. Bruce Wagner Jr. Award, Electrochemical Society (2019)
  • DOE Early Career 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)

Recent Courses Taught

  • MSE 201 - Phases and Phase Relations
  • MSE 422 - Electrical Ceramics
  • MSE 498 NPG (MSE 498 NPU) - Solid State Ionics
  • MSE 522 - Solid State Ionics
  • MSE 529 - Hard Materials Seminar
  • MSE 595 - Materials Colloquium
  • MSE 598 NP - Solid State Ionics