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Five Questions with Dr. Philip Bradford

Dr. Philip Bradford

By Susan Fandel

Dr. Philip Bradford is somewhat of an NC State superalumnus, earning a tetrad of degrees from the university from 2005 until 2010. He entered as a Centennial Scholar in 2001 after completing the Summer Textile Exploration Program (STEP) as a rising high school senior. Less than two decades later, the professor has been named Program Director of the Textile Engineering Program in the Wilson College of Textiles.

Bradford also heads the Bradford Research Group, which focuses on carbon nanotubes and developing textile-like structures from those nanotubes. He was named Outstanding Teacher for the Wilson College of Textiles in 2013, and in 2016 received funding from the Young Investigator Research Program, administered by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He was the first researcher in the Wilson College of Textiles history to receive the award, which he is using to explore a new method of making an extremely low density foam-like material composed of carbon nanotubes.  

1) What does your new position as Program Director of the Textile Engineering Program mean to you and what are your plans for the program?  

The Textile Engineering Program at NC State is made up an amazing group of renowned faculty. It is an honor to be to be able to work alongside these colleagues as the program director. Even though our program is known as the number one Textile Engineering program in the country, our goal for the program is to never be complacent with the successes we have had in the past. Every semester we strive to make the program better than the last to prepare our students for the engineering challenges they will face in their careers. As program director, my job is to facilitate that constant improvement.

My favorite part of teaching is watching students grow throughout the semester and through their academic careers.

2) What do you most enjoy about teaching and working with students?

My favorite part of teaching is watching students grow throughout the semester and through their academic careers. I teach TE105 which is designed as the first Textile Engineering course that aspiring TE students will take freshman year. Many of those students are interested in the idea of textiles but do not know anything about them. By the end of the semester I can sense their excitement about what lies ahead for them in our program. The other courses I teach are graduate level courses in textile composite materials, which many seniors take as electives. I am always amazed at the academic transformation that has taken place in the three years since I last saw those students in the classroom!

3) Tell us a little bit about the Bradford Research Group. Can you share any recent research with us?

The Bradford Research Group is unofficially known as the “Carbon Nanotube Textiles Group.” Our major area of research has been the synthesis and application of really small diameter nanofibers which are made purely of carbon. Individually, carbon nanotubes have incredible properties. They are among the strongest materials in existence, they are electrically conductive and thermally conductive yet they are less dense than typical engineering materials. While carbon nanotubes are widely studied, my group has the unique ability to transform these very small fibers in to fabric-like structures for use in many advanced applications.

4) What is it you find so intriguing about work on the nanoscale? How has this emerging technology shaped your vision of the future?

What I have always found the most intriguing about working at the nanoscale is that you have no idea if you have actually made the structure that you intended to until you use advanced electron microscopes to actually confirm it. That moment of truth, seeing it on the screen, is really exciting. Nanotechnology is becoming more and more prevalent across many of the products that we use everyday and its impact on textile products will be widespread in the future.

5) What drew you to the Wilson College of Textiles?

My favorite thing about the Wilson College of Textiles is the people. It is an amazing group of people that value independent thought, professional development, diversity, collegiality and put a priority on student success.