Michelle Chen, Ph.D.

Professor of Physics and Engineering

Dr. Michelle Chen earned a BA with Honors, MS in Physics, and BS in Mathematics from The University of Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. She was an assistant professor for two years in the physics department at Simmons College, where her research was awarded the President Fund for Faculty Excellence. Dr. Chen joined PLNU in 2010.

Dr. Chen’s research is focused on carbon nanomaterials and their interplay with biological systems. In particular, her thesis was on functionalized carbon nanotube sensors for specific chemical and virus detection. Since being at PLNU, Dr. Chen’s group works on synthesizing graphene and carbon nanotubes, and investigating how they affect biological cell’s growth. Dr. Chen’s research resulted in over 20 peer reviewed publications; several of them were co-authored by undergraduate researchers.

Dr. Chen teaches a variety of physics and engineering courses, including University Physics, Engineering Mechanics, Analytical Mechanics, and Solid State Physics. She is passionate about encouraging students to pursue further research and study for their careers. When having free time, she enjoys walking, especially by many of the beautiful beaches in San Diego.


  • Ph.D., Materials Science and Engineering, University of Pennsylvania
  • M.S., Physics, University of Chicago
  • B.A., Physics, University of Chicago
  • B.S., Mathematics, University of Chicago

Courses Taught

  • Engineering Mechanics: Statics - EGR 2014
  • Mechanics of Materials - EGR 3034
  • Analytical Mechanics: Dynamics – EGR/PHY 3043
  • Analog Electronics Lab – EGR 3053L
  • Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves I - EGR/PHY 3063
  • Digital Electronics Lab – EGR 3093L
  • Electrical Signals and Systems - EGR 4103
  • Senior Project I - EGR/PHY 4072
  • Senior Project II - EGR/PHY 4082
  • General Physics I and Lab – PHY 1044/L
  • General Physics II and Lab – PHY 1054/L
  • University Physics I and Lab – PHY 2044/L
  • University Physics II and Lab - PHY 2054/L
  • Quantum Mechanics - PHY 4053
  • Solid State Physics – PHY 4063

Experience in Field

  • Professor of Physics and Engineering, Point Loma Nazarene University, 2017 – Present
  • Associate Professor of Physics, Point Loma Nazarene University, 2013 – 2017
  • Assistant Professor of Physics, Point Loma Nazarene University, 2010 – 2013
  • Assistant Professor of Physics, Simmons College, 2008 – 2010
  • Graduate Student Researcher, University of Pennsylvania, 2002 – 2008
  • Graduate Student Researcher, The University of Chicago, 1999 – 2002

Professional and Community Involvement

  • Mentor, Undergraduate Research at Simmons College and Point Loma Nazarene University
  • Panel, Pre-Health Interview Committee, Point Loma Nazarene University
  • Referee, Microelectronic Engineering and Proceedings of Materials Research Society
  • Proposal Reviewer, Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Laboratories
  • Director, NanoDay, Simmons College
  • Volunteer, Girls Day Out, SPAWAR, Point Loma Nazarene University
  • Member: American Physical Society, Materials Research Society, and American Association of Physics Teachers

Awards and Honors

  • Faculty Spotlight, PLNU, 2013
  • President Grant for Faculty Research Excellence, Simmons College, 2010
  • Best Presentation Award, Graduate Research Symposium, University of Pennsylvania, 2005
  • Graduate Research Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2002 – 2007
  • Full Tuition Merit Scholarship, University of Chicago, 1999 – 2002
  • Gordon Research Travel Grant, 2014
  • Faculty Development and Travel Grant, NISE Network, 2009
  • Richter Fund for Honors Research, The University of Chicago, 1999

Dissertations, Presentations, and Publications

  • Michelle Chen, Melanie Broman, Claire Mathews, and Eric McPherson, "Real-time Observation of Cell and Carbon Nanotube Interactions," Poster Presentation at APS Meeting, Denver, CO, Mar. 3 – 7, 2017
  • Michelle Chen, Michael Lambert, Kathrine Quiros, and Daniel Solar, "Graphene Synthesis Using Chemical Vapor Deposition and Characterization with Scanning Electron Microscopy," Poster Presentation at Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research, Nov. 12, 2016
  • Y. Liu, M. Chen, M.L. Wang, and M.R. Dokmeci, "RNA Functionalized Single-walled Carbon Nanotube Devices for Chemical Sensing," Applied Physics Letters 103, 103103 (2013)
  • Howard H. Chen, Bradley Baer, Christopher S. Evens, Hannah M. Ponek and Michelle Chen, "Effect of Single-walled Carbon Nanotubes Entry into Mammalian Cells," Materials Research Symposium Proceeding, 1273608 (2012)
  • Michelle Chen, "Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes as Chemical and Biological Sensors," at Materials Science Seminar, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, Dec. 1, 2010
  • C.-L. Chen, C.-F.Yang, V. Argarwal, S. Sonkusale, A. Busnaina, M. Chen, and M.R. Dokmeci, "DNA-decorated Carbon-nanotube-based Chemical Sensors on Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor Circuitry," Nanotechnology 21, 095504 (2010)
  • Y.-B. Zhang, M. Kanungo, A.J. Ho, P. Freimuth, D. van der Lelie, M. Chen, S.M. Khamis, S.A. Datta, A.T. Charlie Johnson, J.A. Misewich, and S.S. Wong, "Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes for Detecting Viral Proteins," Nano Letters 7, 3086 (2007)
  • C. Staii, M. Chen, A. Gelperin, and A.T. Johnson, "Single Stranded DNA-decorated Carbon Nanotubes for Chemical Sensing," Nano Letters 5, 1774 (2005)
  • S. Badaire, C. Zakri, P. Poulin, V. Pichot, P. launois, J. Vavro, C. Guthy, M. Chen, and J.E. Fischer, "Correlation of Properties with Preferred Orientation in Extruded and Stretch-aligned Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes," Journal of Applied Physics 96, 7509 (2004)
  • M. Chen, W. Kang, and W. Wegscheider, "Metamorphosis of the Quantum Hall Ferromagnet at v = 2/5," Physical Review Letters 91, 116804 (2003)