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Materials science names two to chairs

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) has announced two faculty professorships. Professor Michael J. Cima has been appointed the Sumitomo Electric Industries Professor of Materials Science Engineering, and Dr. Sandra Burkett has been namedto the faculty as the John Chipman Assistant Professor of Materials Chemistry.

The announcements were made by the department head, Dr. Thomas W. Eagar, POSCO Professor of Materials Engineering.

"Professor Cima provides a fountain of creative ideas that have already helped to establish several new companies, employing hundreds of people," Professor Eagar said. "His work has cut across the entire field of materials science and engineering."

The Sumitomo chair was established in 1992 with a gift from Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd., of Osaka, Japan. The firm's gift also funds the Harry C. Gatos Distinguished Lecture and Prize in Materials Science and Engineering, which honors MIT Professor Emeritus Harry C. Gatos, a pioneer in electronic materials. Professor Cima is the second DMSE professor to hold the Sumitomo engineering professorship; Dr. Harry L. Tuller, director of the Crystal Physics and Electroceramics Laboratory, was the first.

Professor Cima received the BS from the University of California at Berkeley (1982) in chemistry and then continued at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory for the PhD (1986) in chemical engineering before joining MIT as an assistant professor in 1986. He became the Norton Assistant Professor in 1988 and was named director of the Ceramics Processing Research Laboratory a year later. In 1990 he was promoted to associate professor and in 1992 was awarded tenure.

"It's great to be recognized by appointment to the Sumitomo Electric chair," Professor Cima said, noting that Sumitomo Electric Industries is an important manufacturer of wire and cable and a leading supplier of advanced ceramic materials for structural applications, such as silicon nitride parts and tungsten carbide cutting tools. "The company's brake products division is also employing advanced ceramic materials for new types of friction materials," he said.

Professor Cima is a recognized expert in the field of ceramics manufacturing. His research interests include ceramics processing, studies of processes for the removal of binders from ceramic greenware, drying, novel powder forming methods, ceramic thin films, and ceramics manufacturing. He is also a co-inventor and co-principal investigator on MIT's 3D printing process for rapid prototyping of components from powder materials and has recently applied the technology to drug delivery systems.

Dr. Burkett assumed the Chipman chair on July 1. This career development chair, honoring the late Dr. John Chipman, head of DMSE from 1946-62, was established in 1985. In addition to being one of the department's foremost leaders, Dr. Chipman laid the foundation for modern steelmaking technology through his pioneering work on metallurgical thermochemistry, a field he created.

"We are very pleased to have Dr. Burkett join our faculty," Professor Eagar said. "As a chemist, she carries on the strong tradition, created by John Chipman, of applying the principles of physical chemistry to the science and engineering of materials."

Professor Burkett received the AB with honors from Princeton University in chemistry (1990) and the PhD in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology (1994). She spent two years at the University of Bath in England as a research officer and academic tutor in the School of Chemistry, working on developing new families of organically functionalized, ordered mesoporous silica materials and magnesium silicate clays with applications in organometallic chemistry, catalysis and host-guest chemistry. Earlier this year, she was a visiting researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware.

Professor Burkett investigates the interplay between organic and inorganic components in the synthesis of nanostructured inorganic and inorganic/organic hybrid materials. Building upon previous research on zeolite synthesis and biomineralization processes, she is interested in understanding the nature of inorganic/organic intermolecular interactions within a range of synthetic and natural materials, elucidating nanostructure/property relationships, and applying these principles to the design and synthesis of new materials and devices, including biomaterials.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 13, 1997.

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