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Alumnus funds two professorships

Dr. Vasilios S. Salapatas, an MIT alumnus and the managing director of Helliniki Halyvourgia, S.A., of Athens, has established two new engineering professorships in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The professorships were endowed in August by a $4 million gift from Dr. Salapatas intended to strengthen the department and its teaching and research programs. They are the Stavros V. Salapatas Professorship and the Matoula S. Salapatas Professorship, named in honor of Dr. Salapatas's deceased parents.

The first professor to hold the Matoula S. Salapatas Professorship in Materials Science and Engineering is Dr. Lorna Gibson, a leader in the area of modeling and characterization of the mechanical behavior of cellular materials. Dr. Gibson will hold the chair for an initial term of five and a half years. The holder of the Stavros V. Salapatas chair has not been announced.

Professor Gibson's appointment, effective January 1, was announced by Thomas W. Eagar, department head and POSCO Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

"The two Salapatas chairs provide tremendous new opportunities for the department," he said. "At a time of budget restraint, these chairs create the flexibility needed to help the department move into emerging areas of materials science and engineering which would not be possible without these new resources. Dr. Salapatas's gift will have a lasting effect on the quality of education and research in the department."

After receiving the bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, Dr. Salapatas received the SM in chemical engineering from MIT in 1961. He earned the PhD in metallurgy in 1966, writing a thesis on thermodynamic properties of tin alloys under the supervision of the late Professor Thomas B. King.

Since 1966, Dr. Salapatas has been at Helliniki Halyvourgia, S.A., a privately held Greek steelmaking company started in 1938 by his father. In 1968, he became managing director of the company. In 1985, he founded the MIT Club of Greece.

Professor Gibson received the BASc from the University of Toronto (1978) and the PhD from the University of Cambridge, England (1981). She spent two years as assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of British Columbia and came to MIT in 1984 as assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She was appointed a full professor in 1994. Last summer, she transferred to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and now holds joint appointments in that department, in civil and environmental engineering, and in mechanical engineering.

"The Matoula S. Salapatas Professorship will allow me to pursue new research directions. It is an honor to be named the first holder of the professorship," Professor Gibson said.

Professor Gibson does research on ultra-light structures using metallic foams and on progressive damage resulting from osteoporosis in trabecular bone. She has published more than 50 technical articles on the mechanical properties of materials with cellular structure, and is co-author with Professor Michael F. Ashby of Cellular Solids: Structure and Properties (Cambridge University Press).

She is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Biomechanics, the American Ceramic Society and the Materials Research Society.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 11, 1996.

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