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Jeffrey Coffer
Professor Jeffery Coffer said research is about taking smart risks and pushing through. (Photo By Mark Graham)

Failure in the Science Lab: An Indelible Part of the Process

February 11, 2019

Professor Jeffery Coffer doesn’t allow frustration to get in the way of solving a riddle.

(This article by Caroline Collier originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of TCU Magazine.)

Jeffery Coffer remembers how his doctoral adviser broke the news: “All the easy research problems have been solved. Only the hard ones are left.”

Coffer, professor of inorganic and materials chemistry, accepted the challenge.

After setting up a research lab at TCU in 1990, Coffer jumped into the rabbit hole otherwise known as porous silicon. About the same time, scientists found that when the second-most common element in the Earth’s crust is imbued with holes, it emits light.

The professor split his research time between the low-risk projects — experiments in the light-emitting variety that should yield results — and less attainable dreams of the better-living-through-silicon variety.

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