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Jacob Jones

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Kobe Steel Distinguished Professor

Director, STEPS

College of Engineering

3128 Plant Sciences Building


Dr. Jacob Jones is a Kobe Steel Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Director of the Science and  Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS) Center (, Director and Principal Investigator of the Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network (, former Director of the Analytical Instrumentation Facility (, and a University Faculty Scholar.

Jones’ research interests involve developing structure-property-processing relationships in emerging functional materials, primarily through the use of advanced X-ray and neutron scattering tools. Jones has published over 240 papers and delivered over 130 invited lectures on these topics since 2004. Jones is a Fellow of the IEEE Society and the American Ceramic Society and has received numerous awards for his research and education activities, including an NSF CAREER award, a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the IEEE Ferroelectrics Young Investigator Award, the 2019 NC State Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award, the 2016-2017 NC State College of Engineering George H. Blessis Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award, a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense Program Award of Excellence, and a UF-HHMI Science for Life Distinguished Mentor Award for his mentoring of undergraduate researchers, and two Edward C. Henry “Best Paper” awards from the Electronics Division of the American Ceramic Society.

Jones is known for promoting international science and engineering initiatives. He has been Principal Investigator on three NSF awards to provide international research experiences to U.S. students at foreign research laboratories. Using these programs, Jones has enabled over 50 U.S. students to obtain international research experiences overseas and has hosted a multitude of foreign students at U.S. institutions. Since 2012, he has been a Senior Visiting Fellow in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales. At NC State, he is engaged in the University Global Partnership Network (UGPN) and promotes interactions with the University of Surrey in the U.K. and the University of Wollongong in Australia. In recognition of his international activities, Jones received the International Educator of the Year award (Senior Faculty Awardee) from the University of Florida International Center in 2012.

Jones participates and leads many interdisciplinary teams and projects on topics including nanotechnology, crystallography, functional materials in environmental applications, water sustainability, and healthcare. Many of these interdisciplinary collaborations utilize the suite of analytical tools and in situ capabilities available within the Analytical Instrumentation Facility. Representative projects include collaborations with statisticians and mathematicians in applying Bayesian inference to crystallographic structure refinement and the use of nanotechnology and materials science in environmental remediation and water treatment. As a representative example of the latter, from 2017-2019, Jones led an interdisciplinary project through the highly competitive Game-Changing Research Incentive Program (GRIP) at NC State on the topic “Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology: Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the Solid-Water Interface team.”,” which helped to seed the STEPS Center.

Jones is an elected member of the Research Leadership Academy at NC State, the faculty-driven epicenter of research leadership and faculty mentoring to enhance NC State’s research culture, and has interdisciplinary leadership training in Team Science.

Jones received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2004, after which he completed an international postdoctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia. He was an Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of MSE at the University of Florida from 2006-2013 and joined NC State in August of 2013.

Dr. Jones’s research interests include functional materials such as piezoelectric and ferroelectric materials, materials for phosphorus recovery, nanomaterials, mechanics of materials, and the promotion of international science and engineering.

Visit the Jones Research Group website at


Honors and Awards

  • R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research, and Extension, 2020
  • Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award, 2019
  • Fellow, IEEE Society, 2020
  • Outstanding Materials Engineer Award, School of Materials Engineering, Purdue University, 2020
  • NC State College of Engineering George H. Blessis Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award, 2017
  • Fellow, American Ceramic Society, 2015
  • International Educator of the Year, University of Florida, 2012
  • HHMI Science for Life Distinguished Mentor Award, University of Florida, 2012
  • IEEE Ferroelectrics Young Investigator Award, 2011
  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), 2008
  • National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense Program Award of Excellence, 2009
  • NSF CAREER award, 2008
  • Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award, 2009


Ph.D. Materials Engineering Purdue University 2004

M.S. Mechanical Engineering Purdue University 2001

B.S. Mechanical Engineering Purdue University 1999


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Date: 10/01/21 - 9/30/26
Amount: $15,147,874.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS) Center is a convergence research hub for addressing the fundamental challenges associated with phosphorus sustainability. The vision of STEPS is to develop new scientific and technological solutions to regulating, recovering and reusing phosphorus that can readily be adopted by society through fundamental research conducted by a broad, highly interdisciplinary team. Key outcomes include new atomic-level knowledge of phosphorus interactions with engineered and natural materials, new understanding of phosphorus mobility at industrial, farm, and landscape scales, and prioritization of best management practices and strategies drawn from diverse stakeholder perspectives. Ultimately, STEPS will provide new scientific understanding, enabling new technologies, and transformative improvements in phosphorus sustainability.

Date: 09/01/20 - 8/31/25
Amount: $4,400,000.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The RTNN is a consortium of three North Carolina (NC) institutions and is a site in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) network. NC State, Duke, and UNC-Chapel Hill are all located in close geographical proximity within North Carolina??????????????????s Research Triangle. The RTNN currently offers fabrication and characterization services and education to a diverse range of users from colleges, universities, industry, non-profits, and individuals. The RTNN brings specialized technical expertise and facilities to the National NNCI in areas that include wide bandgap semiconductors, soft materials (animal, vegetative, textile, polymer), functional nanomaterials, in situ nanomaterials characterization and environmental impact, nanofluidics, heterogeneous integration, photovoltaics, and positron annihilation spectroscopy. The RTNN strengthens the National NNCI in the areas of social and ethical implications of nanotechnology, environmental impacts of nanotechnology, and education/workforce development through interaction with industry and community colleges in the Research Triangle. All facilities engaged in this consortium have established track records of facilitating industrial research and technology transfer, strengths that further leverage the proposed site within the Research Triangle.

Date: 07/01/22 - 6/30/25
Amount: $75,000.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Center for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics (CDP)

The overarching goal of this proposal is to determine the local effects of degradation throughout the thickness of piezo- and ferroelectric ceramics. This will be enabled using 3D analysis of the microstructure using advanced focused ion beam and tomography methods as well as Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) techniques. The use of AFM has been successfully applied by co-PI Balke to reveal the local effects of bipolar fatigue in polished cross-section PZT ceramics [1]. In combination, this multi-modal approach covers many relevant length scales and will generate comprehensive insights into the mechanical and functional degradation throughout the thickness of bulk ceramics and will be applied to time and field-driven degradation relevant to actuator applications, such as aging and unipolar fatigue. This will allow to directly identify areas which are most affected by degradation, such as electrode-near regions, and identify their consequences on local and global piezoelectric and ferroelectric properties. Specifically, we will use (1) plasma Focused Ion Beam (pFIB) to rapidly characterize large blocks of fatigued regions both near the surface and in the bulk, (2) X-ray Nano-computed tomography (nano-CT) to identify the presence and location of internal microcracks, and (3) Piezoresponse Force Microscopy (PFM) to characterize the change in local domain structure, domain wall mobility, as well as qualitative changes in dielectric constant throughout the sample thickness. All local observables will be directly compared to macroscopically measured effects of degradation, such as strain and polarization to bridge the information obtained on different length scales and to explore the origin of degradation in the context of unifying degradation laws. This information will allow to establish the role of the microstructure and electrode/ceramic interface on reliability and lifetime predictions.

Date: 03/01/19 - 2/28/25
Amount: $551,999.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The Center for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics (CDP) is an internationally recognized research center dedicated to improving the science and technology of dielectric and piezoelectric materials and their integration into components and devices. This class of materials underpins the functionality of a broad array of electronic and electromechanical systems that are enabling for the transportation, energy, aerospace and defense, communications, and medical sectors of the economy. In response to the needs and opportunities for academic-focused research to support these technology areas, the CDP was established in 2013 as a joint center between North Carolina State University (NCSU) and The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and became an official NSF I/UCRC in 2014. The center attracts companies across the supply chain from raw materials suppliers, to component/subsystems manufacturers, to test equipment suppliers, to device and systems integrators.

Date: 11/11/22 - 9/30/24
Amount: $161,322.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Energy (DOE)

North Carolina State University will work with Sandia to characterize changes in microstructure and phase of the HZO as a function of radiation and cycling in order to elucidate origins of radiation-induced failure.

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