Dr. Palffy-Muhoray

Dr. Peter Palffy-Muhoray Uses Overseas Travel to Promote Kent State and the Prestigious Liquid Crystal Institute

The Glenn H. Brown Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University is one of the most highly regarded research institutions for liquid crystals in the world. It is the birthplace of liquid crystal displays (LCDs), which revolutionized the way we use technology today. Other pivotal contributions have been made to the liquid crystal industry at Kent State, including the invention of the twisted nematic cell, the heart of LCDs. 

Dr. Peter Palffy-Muhoray is associate director of the Liquid Crystal Institute and a professor in the chemical physics interdisciplinary program at Kent State University. He came to Kent in 1987 to study liquid crystals and is still passionate about the subject.

Liquid Crystal Institute Clean Room
A prototyping technique is demonstrated in the clean room facility within the Liquid Crystal Institute. Because of it world-renowned status, LCI has enabled its faculty to establish numerous partnerships with other overseas institutions to collaborate on research and teaching projects. It has also attracted numerous scholars from abroad to study at KSU.
Liquid Crystal Institute Building
The Liquid Crystal and Materials Sciences Building serves as home to Kent State’s Liquid Crystal Institute.

Dr. Palffy-Muhoray is also passionate about promoting the Institute, as well as Kent State University, to the many individuals he meets during his numerous travels overseas. He is one of numerous professors at Kent State University who travel around the world with the intention of making connections with other field experts as well as initiating collaborations with partner institutions. Having originally traveled to Brazil about 20 years ago to give a lecture, Dr. Palffy-Muhoray has traveled back frequently since. In Brazil alone, he’s met a number of influential teachers, students and scientists with whom he has collaborated to perform research, lecture, teach and publish papers. Most recently, Dr. Palffy-Muhoray's extensive involvement at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro resulted in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) being signed between the university and KSU, which is the first step toward a formal agreement. At PUC-Rio, Dr. Palffy-Muhoray has also worked with scientists interested in optical fibers in different sensing applications.

“In the field of liquid crystals, Kent State is really the best in the world. We have the highest concentration of experts in the field.”

Collaborations with other scientists and universities are extremely important to Dr. Palffy-Muhoray and the Liquid Crystal Institute. “Discovering unexpected scientific strengths is a tremendous asset. We have expertise in certain areas because of where we are and who we talk to. It really can be fruitful. It’s surprising that you can go to a remote corner of Brazil and you meet someone who’s an expert in something that maybe only three other people in the world have expertise in,” Palffy-Muhoray said. Learning about other cultures is more beneficial than people may think, even in the scientific world. It can open students’ eyes to many possibilities and it’s great for students to see the skills they learn locally are universal. “Math, physics and chemistry truly add a sense of global connectedness,” he added.

Right now, the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State has a PhD program in chemical physics that is highly selective. There are many applicants, but incoming classes typically consist of about 10 students. They have to take two years of classes and two to three years of research in the field. Many graduates work for companies like Apple and Google and typically get very good jobs in the industry. “The program is very challenging and you have to be very good at math, physics and chemistry. Some American students see some sort of managerial career as being more profitable and not as demanding.  Others embrace the challenges and get a lot of pleasure from the research.” Palffy-Muhoray said. In addition to the PhD program, an exciting new two-year Master’s Degree program in Liquid Crystal Engineering is just starting, and is expected to draw many applicants from all over the world.