Message from the Department Head

Michele Marcolongo
Michele Marcolongo

Selected as one of the “50 Best Places to Travel in 2017” by Travel + Leisure, Philadelphia has been attracting visitors from around the globe for its unique festivals, historic attractions, and cultural offerings.  We in Drexel Materials are fortunate to be situated right in the middle of all of the excitement and to contribute to the innovation and excellence that make a vibrant urban destination.

From new discoveries, exceptional honors, and engagement with the next generation of scientists and engineers, our department continues to move the needle in educational and research endeavors.  This year, we have earned our highest ranking in U.S. News & World Report for our department, rising to the top 30 in the country at number 27.

We are particularly excited to announce several recognitions for our faculty.  Faculty have received a $2.2M endowed professorship; a Foreign Member designation from the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences; a Chair of Excellence from the Nanosciences Foundation in Grenoble, France; and an election as Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS).  Two of our faculty have also been selected to participate in the Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering (ELATE at Drexel®) program, a national leadership development program designed to advance senior women faculty in academic engineering, computer science, and related fields into effective institutional leadership roles within their schools and universities.  As the engineering department with the first female department head at Drexel, we strive to be a leader in STEM education and leadership opportunities for women and underrepresented groups.

Our students continue to excel with two awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and one receiving a Fulbright, who will travel to Italy this fall to continue her research studies.  In addition to Italy, our current students look to expand their horizons and this past year have pursued co-op, study abroad, and research opportunities in places such as England, Germany, and Korea, among other locales.  

We continue to watch in awe as our alumni take what they’ve learned in Drexel Materials and apply it to new ventures.  Two of our alumni have been appointed to assistant faculty positions, one at Harvard University and one at Tulane University, with a third alum promoted to full professor.  Several alumni have also been honored with awards for excellence in their professions.

The Department’s research into two-dimensional materials, specifically MXenes, which were discovered at Drexel, is pushing the boundary on energy storage limits and other applications.  We were fortunate to receive funding for Biologically-Inspired and Resource-Conserving Advanced Materials (BRAVE) through the Drexel Areas of Research Excellence (DARE) program, a university initiative to support interdisciplinary research across the university, creating innovative, unique, and strategic collaborations at the intersections of existing areas of strength that will lead to transformative outcomes.  With funding from DARE, we held our first "Symposium on 2D Transition Metal Compounds for Energy Applications," bringing together 85 participants from 13 different institutions to explore the use of these materials in a variety of energy contexts.  Additionally, our department’s research into MXenes has appeared in prominent publications including Nature Energy and Science and invited perspective and research round-up articles appearing in Nature Communications, Nature Reviews Materials, and Nature Energy, among others.

Entrepreneurship is also a cornerstone of our enterprise.  In particular, one of our faculty members has launched Lenima Field Diagnostics to develop ultra-sensitive, rapid, point-of-care, and affordable molecular diagnostics.  To help others with bringing technology to market, I have recently written a book, Academic Entrepreneurship:  How to Bring Your Scientific Discovery to a Successful Commercial Product, to be published by Wiley in October 2017.  

We are delighted to have a newly formed External Advisory Board, tasked with helping us to grow our external connections.  Alumnus Mike Marucci from GKN Powder Metallurgy serves as chair and is joined by alumnae Anne Stevens, retired chairman and principal of SA IT Services, and Dr. Svetlana Dimovski, co-founder of Dharma Growth, LLC, as well as David Beatson of Thorlabs Quantum Electronics.  We greatly appreciate their service on behalf of the department.

One of the most important and rewarding activities we administer is Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day, a day-long event open to the general public that introduces them to the wonder of materials science and engineering.  For the seventh year in a row, we worked with our collaborators from the University of Pennsylvania, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Franklin Institute among other area organizations, and were grateful to have GKN Powder Metallurgy as a Gold Sponsor and Arkema as a Bronze Sponsor.  Close to 1000 kids and adults alike experienced hands-on demos and workshops ranging from liquid nitrogen ice cream to running across ooblek to making power from produce and more.

When people think of Philadelphia as a destination for travel, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall may immediately come to mind, but Drexel Materials is the place to be for exciting discoveries and a fun introduction to materials science and engineering. We hope you’ll stop by for a visit soon!

Michele Marcolongo, PhD, PE, AIMBE