Michael G.Spencer

Michael G. Spencer

Electrical and Computer Engineering


Electrical Engineer, Computer Scientist and Engineering Professor Michael G. Spencer was born in Detroit, Michigan. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and traveled to Ithaca, New York to study at Cornell University. He earned his B.S. degree in 1974 and his M.S. degree in 1975. Spencer worked at Bell Laboratories from 1974 to 1977 before returning to Cornell to receive his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering in 1981.

He joined the faculty of Howard University as an assistant professor in 1984. Spencer also founded the Materials Science Center for Excellence in 1984 and served as its director for the entirety of his career at Howard. He spent the next eighteen years working and researching at Howard, becoming a full professor in 1990 and the David and Lucile Packard Chaired Professor of Materials Science in 1999. During this time, Spencer also worked as a visiting scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s JET Propulsion Laboratory. In 1999, he returned to his alma mater, Cornell University as Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He served as Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies for the College of Engineering from 2002 to 2008. Spencer is an Emeritus Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University.

Spencer directed the Wide Bandgap Laboratory where he continued his research on semiconductor materials like Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN), as well as developing research on two dimensional semiconductors like graphene.  He co-founded Widetronix, a company that builds low power long life betavoltaic batteries. Spencer has written over 130 publications concerning semiconductors and has also co-authored eleven United States patents.

In 1985, he received the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. Spencer also received the QEM (Quality Education for Minorities) Giants of Science Award and the Allen Berman Research Publication Award from the Naval Research Laboratory. He served as one of the directors for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Nano-Fabrication Network. Spencer was a member of the program committee of the American Vacuum Society and the International Conference on Silicon Carbide and Related Materials.  Spencer has severed on the review of manufacturing-related programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the panel on sensors and electron Devices for the National Research Council (National Academies) and the committee on assessment of solid state lighting for the National Research Council (a part of the National Academies of Science and Engineering) March 2011-present.  He also held memberships in the Electronic Materials Conference Organizing Committee and the Compound Semiconductor Symposium Organizing Committee.

Research Interests

My research focus is in growth of compound semiconductors, and graphene, microwave devices, power conversion devices and solar cells. My particular interests are correlation of device performance with material fabrication.

Teaching Interests

1. Semiconductor material and nano -fabrication technology with emphasis on the effect of material defects on the performance of electronic devices 
2. The fabrication and operation of power conversion semiconductor devices with emphasis on the role of compound semiconductors (particularly SiC and GaN) in increasing power device performance

Selected Publications

  • Gorantla, S., A. Bachmatiuk, J. Hwang, J. Y. Kwak, T. Seyller, J. Eckert, Michael G. Spencer, M. H. Rümmeli.  2014. "A universal transfer route for graphene."  Nanoscale 6: 889-896.
  • Hwang, J., M. Kim, H. Y. Cha, Michael G. Spencer, J. W. Lee.  2014. "Metal Free Growth of Graphene on Quartz Substrate Using Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)."  Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology 4: 2979-2983.
  • Malaisamy, R., L. Lepak, Michael G. Spencer, K. L. Jones.  2013. "Surface modification of porous alumina membranes by collagen layers: Performance and characterization."  Separation and Purification Technology 115: 114-122.
  • Kwak, J. Y., J. Hwang, M. Graham, H. Alsalman, N. Munoz, B. Calderon, D. Campbell, Michael G. Spencer.  2013.  "A high response MoS 2-graphene hetero-junction photodetector with broad spectral range."  Paper presented at Device Research Conference (DRC) 71st annual
  • Hwang, J., M. Kim, V. B. Shields, Michael G. Spencer.  2013. "CVD growth of SiC on sapphire substrate and graphene formation from the epitaxial SiC."  Journal of Crystal Growth 366: 26-30.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Giants of Science Award 1996
  • Featured in PBS TV Series Breakthrough:Engineering From the Inside Out aired April 1996
  • Distinguished Visiting Scientist Appointment (Jet Propulsion Laboratories) 1990
  • Allen Berman Research Publication Award (Naval Research Laboratory) 1986
  • Presidential Young Investigator Award (National Science Foundation) 1985


  • B.S. (Electrical Engineering), Cornell University, 1974
  • M.Eng. (Electrical Engineering), Cornell University, 1975


In the News


The award (1 million per year for 5 years) will be shared approximately equally between Cornell and Columbia (Columbia is the lead). The principal investigator is Rick Osgood at Columbia and Professor Michael Spencer will lead the Cornell efforts. Read more about AFOSR MURI Award