Erik Helgren Faculty Profile

Photo of Erik Helgren

Erik  Helgren

Associate Professor & Chair

Department of Physics

  • Chair for the Department of Physics at CSUEB since 2014
  • Co-director of the Social Impact Solar (SIS) program, i.e., the Solar Suitcase Program since 2015
  • Awarded the George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor Award for the 2018-2019 academic year
  • Board of Directors, CSUEB Institute for STEM Education since 2015
  • Director of the CSUEB Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation 2010-2015

Background: Dr. Helgren is a Bay Area native having grown up in San Francisco and attending Lowell High School.  He attended UCLA, earning a B.S. in Physics in 1996, after which he spent time working as a Systems Engineer for Hughes/Raytheon Defense Systems in El Segundo, CA.  He continued with his graduate education at UCLA and focused on Condensed Matter Physics, specializing in microwave and millimeter-wave (or terahertz) spectroscopy techniques to study the electrodynamics of materials under the guidance of Dr. George Gruner and was awarded his doctorate in 2002.  Dr. Helgren took a post-doctoral position at UCSD working with Drs. Frances Hellman and Bob Dynes in the Department of Physics and his research focused on magnetic & semiconductor materials.  He accepted a joint position as an Assistant Project Scientist in the Department of Physics at UC Berkeley & in the Materials Science Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and worked there until joining the faculty here at California State University East Bay in the Fall of 2008.

Transport Properties of Renewable Energy Materials:

We study the materials used in organic conducting polymer photovoltaic (PV) cells, similar to those materials currently found in OLED displays, and focus on techniques to improve the efficiencies of the PV cells by altering the materials used.  Our current research has focused on the fundamental electrical transport properties in conducting polymers tuned close to the Metal Insulator Transition (MIT) where we have found many universal properties as compared to traditional semiconductors, like silicon. Another project focused on using oriented carbon nanotubes embedded in the active region of a polymer PV device, and quantify any changes in the transport properties of oriented, spun-cast embedded nanowires polymer films.  


Social Impact Solar (SIS) - The Solar Suitcase Program

I am co-director of the Social Impact Solar Program (SIS) along with my colleague Dr. Karina Garbesi, Professor and Director of Environmental Studies.  The program centers around a course piloted during the 2015-16 academic year, and co-taught by Dr. Garbesi and myself annually, where students learn basic STEM concepts associated with solar technology as well as the social justice and environmental justice implications that solar technology can have on the society.  Students in our CSUEB class assemble a working off-grid solar energy system, i.e., the Solar Suitcase, developed by our partner non-profit We Share Solar.  These suitcases are then donated and delivered to energy poor regions of the world, including orphanages, medical clinics and schools in sub-Saharan Africa where energy poverty is a life-threatening issue.  Our CSUEB program includes having our own university students mentor middle and high school students in local Hayward schools when they too learn about solar technology in their classrooms by building solar suitcases as well.  We have found that our students serve as ambassadors and role models while participating in this service learning opportunity.  SInce 2016 we have coordinated the expansion of the Solar Suitcase program to partnering CSU and community college campuses, e.g., SF State, Sacramento State, Cal Poly SLO, CSU Stanislaus, Humboldt State, CSUMB and Contra Costa College.

  • Ph.D. Physics UCLA

Not teaching this semester.