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January 2024

From the Chair

Dear Alumni and Friends of the Department,

As we embark on a new year, we pause to reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and to look forward to the opportunities 2024 will bring us! In July 2023, I began my second 3-year term as chair and I am excited to lead this wonderful department as we continue to grow our faculty, expand our research spaces, and innovate in our classrooms and our labs. In this newsletter, we are highlighting the impact and accomplishments of our students, staff, and faculty in our four areas of excellence: Research, Education, Community, and Infrastructure.

Read the full message from MSE Chair Lara Estroff.

Featured News

Chris Ober Inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, Class of 2023

Ober's research focuses on fine-tuning the thermal, optical and electrical properties of polymers through precise changes to molecular structure. 

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering was well-represented in the academy’s new class, which also includes adjunct professor Kelin J. Kuhn and alumni Peter F. Green, Ph.D. ’85, and Jie Xue, Ph.D. ‘92. 

Judy Cha named director of Cornell NanoScale Facility

Cha is an expert in topological and two-dimensional nanomaterials with quantum properties. She becomes the facility’s ninth director since its establishment in 1977.

MSE honors Bill LaFontaine with Distinguished Alumni Award

William “Bill” LaFontaine, Ph.D. ’90 was presented with the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award, in recognition of his outstanding career as a leader in industry. 

Nicole Benedek

Nicole Benedek promoted to associate professor

Nicole Benedek was approved for promotion to associate professor with indefinite tenure by the Cornell Board of Trustees. Benedek joined Cornell in 2015 and leads the Theory and Simulation of Materials Group.

Research Briefs

Learn “how nature inspires materials science in Cornell’s SoftLiv Lab”

A colorful bird sitting on a branch with green leaves in the background

Tiny networks intertwine to mimic design of bird colors

The bright plumage of birds is often a feast for the eyes, but it has been a headache for scientists who have struggled to recreate the photonic nanostructures that generate those colors in the lab.

A confocal microscopy image shows a bicontinuous microstructure with well-defined spacing.

Oral delivery a possibility for silica-based C'Dot

In addition to the potential for oral administration of C’Dots for cancer and other therapies, the research has also spurred new interest in ultrasmall silica itself as a health benefit.

Schematic representation of a Cornell Dot, with several molecules of a fluorescent rhodamine dye encapsulated in the center. The dye has been modified with a group that links to the encapsulating silicon.

Microcalcification 'fingerprints' can yield info about cancer

An interdisciplinary collaboration used a materials science approach to “fingerprint” the calcium mineral deposits known as microcalcifications that reveal pathological clues to the progression of breast cancer and potentially other diseases.

Left, a pathology stain of a ductal carcinoma, showing cells and connective tissue. Right, a Raman mapping of the calcification, which was captured by a technique that detects the distinct vibrational signatures of a biological molecule’s organic and inorganic chemistries.

Benedek Group designs dynamic materials for tomorrow's tech

Benedek and her lab use theoretical and computational techniques to discover or design functional materials with certain target properties.

Awards and Honors

darrell Schlom, Uli Weisner, James Hwang, Andrej Singer, Julie Dshemuchadse

Faculty and students receive recognition for their expert research, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and academic excellence

Julia Dshemuchadse, assistant professor, received the 2023 Faculty Champion Award - Junior Faculty for her commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion at Cornell. Darrell Schlom, Tisch University Professor, received the Cornell Engineering Teaching Award in recognition for his dedication to his students and his leadership of PARADIM, an NSF-funded materials innovation platform. Andrej Singer, assistant professor, received the Cornell Engineering Research Excellence Award for his work investigating materials at the nanoscale. James Hwang, research professor, was awarded the IEEE Lester F. Eastman Award for outstanding achievement in high-performance semiconductor devices. Uli Wiesner , Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering, won the 2023 Charles G. Overberger International Prize for Excellence in Polymer Research.

Ph.D. students Konrad Hedderick, Maya Martirossyan, and Rachael Skye received inaugural travel awards made possible by the generosity of Dr. William R. LaFontaine to support experiential learning opportunities at conferences and events. Natalia Urbas '23 received the Cornell Class of 1964 John F. Kennedy Memorial Award for Public Service. Ph.D. student, Cameron Gorsak, was awarded the 2023 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. Ph.D. student, Quinton Wright, was awarded a pre-doctoral trainee position at Hospital for Special Surgery. Ph.D. student, Mokshin Suri, was awarded the Knight@KIC Fellowship and Ph.D. alumnus, Nate Schrieber received the APL Materials Excellence in Research Award.

These are just a few of the many exciting ways our faculty and students are being recognized for their research and expertise. Stay up to date on the latest MSE awards and honors featured in our MSE news and spotlights.

Student Spotlights

Aileen Luo

Aileen Luo is a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering from Sunnyvale, California. She earned her B.S. in materials science and engineering from UC Berkeley and now characterizes the nanoscale structure of materials under the guidance of Andrej Singer at Cornell.

Read more about Aileen.

Bashayer Aldakkan

Bashayer Aldakkan is a doctoral student in materials science and engineering from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She earned her B.Sc. from Penn State University, double majoring in chemical engineering and economics, and her M.S. from Cornell University in materials science and engineering and now studies the synthesis of polymeric nanoparticles that are responsive to local stimuli under the guidance of Emmanuel Giannelis at Cornell.

Read more about Bashayer.

Giving Opportunities

Materials science students standing outside on a bridge with potted plants

There are many ways to support MSE students and researchers. Please visit our giving opportunities website and consider a gift that will help us remain a top materials science and engineering department.

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We love hearing from our alumni and welcome your comments and questions, as well as updates on what your doing with your MSE degree. We're always looking for interesting alumni to profile in future editions of the newsletter. Email us at [email protected].
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