Professor and head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Frank Spear, has been appointed the Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Science Education. Spear began his career at Rensselaer in 1985. He was named a full professor in 1988 and has been head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences since 1999. Before joining Rensselaer, Spear taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, both in geology. Spear’s research to uncover the history of Earth’s formation has taken him around the world. His goal is to develop methods researchers can use to create a tectonic history of a terrain. His research looks at the record of various elements in metamorphic rocks to reconstruct a timeline of the rock’s formation. Thanks in large part to Spear’s research, geologists now understand that trace elements preserve the history of a rock to a much larger degree than more major elements like iron, magnesium, manganese, and calcium.
Associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and associate director of CEES, Tarek Abdoun, has received the 2009 Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The award cites Abdoun’s “significant contributions to the study of soil and soil-structure systems subjected to extreme events using centrifuge modeling and advanced instrumentation,” and commends his “innovative and highly creative” research. His primary research interests include centrifuge modeling, soil-structure interaction, soil remediation, field advanced sensing, and data visualization. Abdoun led Rensselaer’s physical modeling research team that clarified the failure mechanisms of some of the New Orleans levees during Hurricane Katrina, providing critical feedback to the corresponding numerical analyses. He has performed hundreds of modeling tests using Rensselaer’s 150 g-ton geotechnical centrifuge to study the resilience and sustainability of national infrastructure.
The Patricia W. and C. Sheldon Roberts ’48 Chaired Professor in Solid State Electronics, Michael Shur, has been named a fellow of the Materials Research Society (MRS). The MRS reserves the title of fellow to honor members who are “notable for their distinguished research accomplishments and their outstanding contributions to the advancement of materials research, worldwide.” Shur’s recent research efforts include new terahertz electronics and wide band gap semiconductor technologies. Other research interests include semiconductors and integrated circuits, with an emphasis on novel devices, high-power transistors, visible and ultraviolet light emitting diodes, acousto-optic devices, ballistic transport in semiconductors, plasma wave electronics devices, and electronics on flexible substrates. His research has wide-ranging applications in energy-saving solid-state lighting.
The P.K. Lashmet Professor at Rensselaer, Ravi Kane, has won the 2009 Young Investigator Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Biochemical Technology. Kane’s research focuses on the interface of nanotechnology and biotechnology, in an attempt to identify new ways of transforming a fundamental molecular-level understanding of nanoscopic and biological systems, and develop new advanced materials that can play an important role in tackling important global challenges related to health and medicine. These investigations range from developing “self-cleaning” nanotube coatings and new methods to destroy anthrax toxin, to advancing stem cell proliferation and microfluidic DNA separation.