Inside Rensselaer
* Robert Hull
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Nanotechnology Expert To Lead Materials Science and Engineering Department
World-renowned materials science expert Robert Hull will join Rensselaer in early 2008 to head the School of Engineering’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). A highly recognized and respected researcher, Hull intends to grow the number of materials science students and faculty at Rensselaer and further solidify the department’s reputation for innovation and excellence.

“Our materials science and engineering department is known for making breakthrough discoveries and international headlines, and Professor Hull is the ideal leader to take this success to the next level,” says Alan Cramb, dean of the School of Engineering. “Robert is a gifted researcher, a strong teacher, and he has a clear vision for the department. I look forward to working with him.”

In addition to department head, Hull will be appointed as the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer. The prestigious professorship was established as a bequest by the late Henry Burlage Jr. ’44 to honor the memory of his father. After earning B.S. and M.S. degrees in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer, Burlage served as chief of liquid rocket research and technology at NASA, and then as director of engineering for A.C. Martin & Associates, consultants in architecture, engineering, land planning, and interior design.

Hull will join Rensselaer from the University of Virginia, his academic home of 13 years, where he was the Charles Henderson Professor of Engineering in the school’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Hull also directed the university’s Institute for Nanoscale and Quantum Science as well as its Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

In academia and private industry, Hull is best known for his research into fundamental growth mechanisms of semiconductor films and nanostructures, and for his work in exploring potential applications of these structures to future nanoelectronic devices. He will continue this pursuit at Rensselaer, but as department head he also will aim to grow both the size and stature of the department, attracting new and talented faculty and students.

“Materials science and engineering is a long-established discipline that is evolving in many exciting ways,” Hull says. “At Rensselaer, the department has established excellence, it benefits from name recognition, and I think we’re going to see significant growth in both size and stature.”

Hull is also looking to increase collaborations between MSE and other departments, challenging his colleagues to look at old problems from new perspectives and take advantage of Rensselaer’s diverse pool of expertise and intellectual capital.

“We really have an opportunity to grow the department, for example at the interface between materials science and biology,” he says. “There is so much expansion at Rensselaer in biology, biotechnology, and bioengineering, and I’m very excited about the role materials science can play to advance these areas.” Hull also emphasizes that there are several other cross-institutional fields where MSE can make major contributions to academic leadership, including nanomaterials, new energy technologies, and computational science.

Hull received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Oxford University in 1980, and went on to earn his doctorate in materials science from Oxford in 1983. For the following 10 years, he worked as a researcher at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Hewlett Packard Laboratories, including a visiting associate professorship as the NEC Chair at the University of Tokyo in Japan. Hull joined UVA in 1994, and was promoted to a full professor in 1999.

Along with an extensive list of published articles, Hull is active in engineering and materials science societies and professional groups. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the European Academy of Sciences, and in 1997 served as president of the Materials Research Society.

Within the realms of materials and nanoscience, Hull’s research focuses on the relationships between structure and property in electronic materials, fundamental mechanisms of thin film growth, and the self-assembly of nanoscale structures. Other areas of interest include degradation modes in electronic and optoelectronic devices, the properties of dislocations in semiconductors, nanoscale fabrication techniques, nanoscale tomographic reconstruction techniques, development of new nanoelectronic architectures, and the theory and application of electron and ion beams.

Hull will move to the Capital Region with his wife, Harriett, and three young children. Having lived in New Jersey for some time, Hull says he’s “halfway prepared” for a cold, snowy upstate New York winter.

“I’ve heard winters in New Jersey are half as bad as upstate winters, so we’re just going to have to dress twice as warmly,” he says. “It should certainly be interesting.”
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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 1, Number 8, November 29, 2007
©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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