Max N. Mankin

Hertz Fellow: Max N. Mankin

Harvard University

Area of Study


Fellowship Years

2012 - 2015

Max Mankin, PhD, is the co-founder and CTO of Modern Electron, a start-up company based in the Seattle area, whose mission is to generate cheap, modular, and reliable electricity for all. Recently, he was selected for the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30: Science class of 2016 for his leadership role in Modern Electron.

Max was lucky enough to have two parents who supported his early enthusiasm for science: with books, with old computers from the town dump, with model rocket engines, and with grocery store chemicals. They even managed to contain their anger when Max ruined their microwave by putting a CD in it and scarred the porch with his homemade Tesla coil.

In high school, chemistry appealed to Max because it explained natural phenomena like rusting fences, oil floating on water, and full water bottles exploding in the freezer. Similarly, during his undergraduate career at Brown University, the appeal of linking fundamentals to observable characteristics of the real world drew him to physical chemistry. Max’s research at Brown, where he graduated in 2011 with a BS in chemistry, with honors, focused on synthesizing nanoscale metal and metal alloy catalysts to enhance the efficiency and commercial viability of alternative energy fuel cells. He worked on projects involving platinum, palladium, gold, and iron nanoparticles. His interest in catalysis also led him to study the surface chemistry of titanium dioxide at Harvard for a summer.

As a Hertz Fellow, Max completed his PhD in Professor Charles Lieber's lab at Harvard with a focus on nanoscale crystal growth, integrating compound semiconductors with silicon nanowire photonic devices, and characterizing the properties of highly strained nanomaterials. This research will lead to new paradigms for nanomaterial synthesis and assembly, nanoscale optoelectronics, and the ability to interface photonic nanostructures with living tissue and other nanoscale electronics.


2015 - Advances in Crystal Growth and Assembly for Imparting Novel Photonic Properties to Semiconductor Nanowires


2016 - Peter Strauss Award
Hertz Fellow Max Mankin is the co-recipient of the 2016 Strauss Award for tremendous work in revolutionizing the electric power generation and effort in finding a solution to an issue that impacts everyone around the globe: energy consumption, with the Seattle based start-up, Modern Electron, which is working towards generating inexpensive, modular, reliable electricity for use worldwide. Max co-founded Modern Electron with Hertz Fellow Tony Pan, also co-recipient of the 2016 Strauss Award.