Message from the Department Head

Michele Marcolongo
Michele Marcolongo

Philadelphia has been buzzing with exciting events this year. With a recent visit from the Pope to Philadelphia coinciding with the delivery of our new TEM, the Pope’s visit won priority! The TEM was safely delivered to our newly renovated Core Facilities right after the pontiff got in his Fiat and headed for the airport.

Otherwise in our Department, we have had our own inspiring events. Prestigious post-doctoral fellowships for recent graduates, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, two new faculty and a promotion, research leaps in the still-new area of MXenes, and in-depth research in spintronic data storage are just a handful of the new developments and accomplishments that have graced our department in 2014-2015.

We have expanded our materials family and research areas with the addition of Dr. Andrew Magenau, most recently at Penn State University, and Dr. Maher Harb, most recently at Lund University in Sweden, both new assistant professors in the department, with Dr. Harb having a joint appointment in Physics. Dr. Magenau’s research group at Drexel University will be focused on developing innovative polymerization platforms that generate functional soft materials addressing needs at the interface of chemistry, biology, and materials science. Dr. Harb’s research group at Drexel University will be focused on applying time resolved techniques to study phase transformations in strongly correlated systems, generation and detection of coherent lattice vibrations, and characterization of materials properties of graphene, few-layer-graphene, ultra-thin graphite & nanocrystalline diamond. We also congratulate Professor Steven May on his tenure and promotion to Associate Professor.

Our faculty continue to be recognized for their excellence in research, teaching, and service. Professor Christopher Li was selected as the North American Thermal Analysis Society (NATAS) Fellow in 2014. Professor Yury Gogotsi received a Doctor Honoris Causa from Université Paul Sabatier. Professor Steven May is the 2015 recipient of the ASM International Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers. Professor Rick Knight was awarded the 2015 Meritorious Service Award from the Liberty Bell Chapter of ASM International.

Not to be outdone by their advisors, our students have brought in an impressive set of awards. PhD students Boris Dyatkin, Kelsey Hatzell, and Maria Lukatskaya, all advised by Gogotsi, have each received a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory respectively. PhD student Michael Ghidiu, advised by Michel Barsoum and Yury Gogotsi, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. PhD students Bryan Byles, advised by Ekaterina Pomerantseva, and Sarah Gleeson, advised by Christopher Li, both received Honorable Mention. BS/MS students Brittany Gallagher and Ziyin Huang have received Tau Beta Pi Scholarships while BS/MS student Christopher DelRe is a recipient of the inaugural Alpha Sigma Mu Harry C. Rogers Scholarship presented by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Alpha Sigma Mu. To conclude the academic year, materials students collected an impressive number of prestigious Drexel awards and honors given through the Office of Graduate Studies including two Research Excellence Awards and a sweep of all the awards specifically for Engineering program students.

Our alumni represent our department well in their careers and are also gaining recognition for their work. PhD alumnus and former Drexel Materials faculty member Dr. Ronald (Ron) W. Smith, PhD’85 received the Service to the Community Award from the Drexel University Alumni Association for his work with Rotary International. Music producer Howard Benson, BS ’80, is the recipient of a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. Alumnus Dr. William E. Frazier, BS ’81, MS ’84, PhD ’87, has been elected Vice President of the Board of Trustees of ASM International. We are proud of our alumni and the many different paths they have chosen to express their Drexel Materials degrees.

Research in the area of MXenes, the 2D material discovered at Drexel through a collaboration between Professors Barsoum and Gogotsi’s groups, continues to unearth new discoveries with promise for improvement in energy storage. Publications in Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Angewandte Chemie reflect the international interest this research has gained. A team of researchers led by Hoeganaes Associate Professor Mitra Taheri has published their latest research on the materials used in spintronic data storage in Nature Communications. Faculty continue to bring in funding for new research, including two National Science Foundation grants for Professor Li in the areas of energy and electronic applications totaling over $640,000. Assistant professor Garritt Tucker also received a National Science Foundation grant to study the stability and mechanical nature of nanocrystalline alloys to assist in the development of a new generation of novel structural materials with tunable properties. Looking towards commercialization, our department has two recent start-up companies, Lenima Field Diagnostics LLC from the research of Professor Wei-Heng Shih and affiliated faculty member Professor Wan Shih, and MiMecore Therapeutics LLC from my own research, that are finding ways to improve people’s healthcare and overall health through innovation.

Reaching more people to introduce them to materials science and engineering remains an important goal. Our unique multi-institution collaboration, Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day, just celebrated its fifth year bringing hands-on materials science and engineering opportunities to the general public. The demos on the Drexel side are organized by Teaching Associate Professor Christopher Weyant, who in his three years here is transforming engineering education and outreach and bringing the field to a broader audience.

I hope you are as energized as I am by the excitement of materials science and engineering research and transformation that continues in Drexel Materials. I encourage you to explore our web-based annual report for more stories and enjoy our newer website, launched earlier this year. As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback.


Michele Marcolongo, PhD, PE, AIMBE