For one researcher in the Florida High Tech Corridor, grit has always been the difference maker. Courage to try something new and determination to be successful are what led Alexandre “Alex” Titov into the field of nanotechnology, where he remains motivated to make a significant impact in The Corridor region and beyond.
Alex was introduced to nanotechnology while conducting undergraduate research at the University of Florida (UF) and was fascinated from the start.
According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at the nearly incomprehensible nanoscale – a nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Despite its small scale, the implications of this technology are massive, with applications in many sectors from life sciences to optics and photonics.
“When I was working directly with nanotechnology, I was able to see the potential it had; that it can be done, it can be mass marketed and it can be mass produced,” said Alex. “I think that was the turning point in my career.”
With his heart set on a career in the field of nanotechnology, Alex graduated and immediately went to work for NanoPhotonica, a startup with offices at UF Innovate | The Hub and in Lake Mary. He described the decision as a “no-brainer,” offering an opportunity to live and raise a family in a great area, while also tapping into resources available in The Corridor region.
In his role today as lab manager, Alex helps NanoPhotonica leverage nanotechnology and innovative nanomaterials to create high-resolution, efficient electronic displays at a significantly reduced cost.
Although Alex’s official title is “lab manager,” he wears multiple hats. Performing routine vacuum pump oil changes, synthesizing nanoparticles and discussing projects with leaders of large corporations are all part of the job. Embedded into the culture of many startups, this variety keeps Alex on his toes and motivated to work hard each day.
He credits the company’s fast growth to great leadership, including that of NanoPhotonica’s former co-founder, vice president and R&D director, Dr. Ying Zheng, who is notorious for one simple phrase that has encouraged fast learning and entirely changed Alex’s own perspective on research: “It’s okay.”
Whenever something failed, Ying offers assurance, then quickly rolls up his sleeves and helps get the team back on track.
“He taught us all that failure is part of research and that we should think of it as a learning curve to success,” explained Alex.
Alex also credits Mark Long, director of incubation services at UF, and the resources of UF Innovate | The Hub for its facilities, equipment and support to identify funding opportunities. This support led to NanoPhotonica becoming one of the first companies to successfully emerge from the incubator and a globally recognized leader in its industry.
“We’ve seen a lot of companies like ours fail and I think the main difference is having grit,” Alex shared. “It’s truly the biggest attribute in making it through.”