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Brilliant One

Popular Science magazine names USC Dornsife physicist Moh El-Naggar among this year’s Brilliant 10.

By Robert Perkins
September 19, 2012

USC Dornsife's Moh El-Naggar (center) was voted among the 10 most promising young scientists by Popular Science magazine. Photo by Allison V. Smith.

USC Dornsife's Moh El-Naggar (center) was voted among the 10 most promising young scientists by Popular Science magazine. Photo by Allison V. Smith.

USC Dornsife scientist Moh El-Naggar has been selected as one of Popular Science’s 2012 Brilliant 10, the magazine’s annual honor roll of the 10 most promising young scientists.

El-Naggar is featured in the October 2012 issue of Popular Science.

The 32-year-old assistant professor of physics is a pioneer within the field of biophysics. He studies energy conversion and transmission at the interface between living beings — like bacteria and synthetic surfaces. His work has important implications for microbial respiration, and may lead to the development of new hybrid materials and renewable energy technologies.

His research is on the cutting edge of a new confluence between physics and biology. Among other things, El-Naggar conducts experiments and develops physics models that explain why biological processes work the way they do.

“I keep one leg in the physics world, and one leg in the biological world. The field is so fertile right now — it’s just exploding,” he said.

El-Naggar arrived in USC Dornsife in late 2006 to do post-doctoral research and joined the faculty in January 2009. His work represents a lifelong dream to work in science.

“I don’t think I ever considered anything else,” he said, momentarily flummoxed when asked at what point he decided to become a scientist.

El-Naggar credits fruitful collaborations with other scientists for his meteoric rise in the field – citing a long list of mentors and colleagues, as well as his student research team.

“I met just the right people at the right time,” he said. “[The award] reflects on the team we’ve put together.”

With great colleagues and resources to continue his work, El-Naggar said he feels like he’s found the right place to continue his innovative research.

“We have strong programs led by researchers who are at the top of their fields, all at a single university. USC has become the place to do this research,” he said.

To learn more about El-Naggar’s research, read this USC Dornsife Magazine story.