Published July 13, 2015
Krishna Rajan, an internationally recognized expert on materials informatics, has been named the Erich Bloch Endowed Chair of UB’s new Department of Materials Design and Innovation (MDI).
His appointment was announced by Liesl Folks, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and E. Bruce Pitman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, following an international search.
Rajan joins UB from Iowa State University, where he served as the Wilkinson Professor of Interdisciplinary Engineering, holding appointments in materials science and engineering, and bioinformatics and computational biology.
Rajan also directed Iowa State’s Institute for Combinatorial Discovery, founded the Combinatorial Sciences and Materials Informatics Collaboratory — an international research program led by Iowa State — and served as an associate research scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.
“We are extremely pleased that Krishna Rajan will be joining UB in this strategically important role,” says Folks. “A world-renowned scholar with an impressive record of research, teaching and service, he will enhance UB’s standing as a premier public research university while advancing important regional and national initiatives that will help Western New York grow as a hub for advanced manufacturing and biotechnology.”
Pitman says Rajan “brings a unique set of skills to UB, from informatics and statistics to bench experimentation.”
“To respond to the challenges of developing new materials, it is essential to join these different approaches to discovery, transcending traditional departments and disciplines. His ability to innovate in the classroom and through his research is a tremendous asset to the university and the whole Buffalo Niagara region,” he says.
A unique collaboration between the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the College of Arts of Sciences, the new department builds upon UB’s existing faculty expertise in computer science, physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, and chemical and biological engineering.
The new department will train future materials scientists and engineers, with an emphasis on the use of advanced computational tools, in conjunction with bench science, to reduce the cost and time it takes to discover and commercialize new materials that are critical to the economic security of the region, nation and world.
These goals match those of the White House’s Materials Genome Initiative and its Big Data Research and Development Initiative, both of which aim to accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen national security, and transform teaching and learning. The department’s objectives also align with state initiatives — such as the SUNY Materials and Advanced Manufacturing Network of Excellence and the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council — that work to boost economic development in Buffalo and beyond.
MDI evolved from the UB 2020 strategic plan to position UB as a leading public university by investing in and focusing its research strengths on solving important societal problems. An “E Fund” initiative in materials science and engineering grew into a commitment to develop a stand-alone department.
Plans call for establishing master’s- and PhD-degree programs initially, with an undergraduate program to be added later, as well as hiring 12 tenure-track faculty members.
MDI will work with several UB initiatives, including the New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, the Center for Computational Research and the Computational and Data-enabled Science and Engineering program, as well as partner organizations such as Buffalo Manufacturing Works.
Rajan, who will join UB this summer, will serve as Erich Bloch Endowed Chair of the department. Bloch is a UB alumnus who became a high-ranking executive at IBM and director of the National Science Foundation from 1984-90. He donated $1.5 million to UB for the newly formed department.
“Erich Bloch’s commitment to higher education, specifically his support of UB in this emerging field of research, is exemplary. Philanthropy such as this is instrumental in helping to recruit outstanding faculty such as Krishna Rajan to UB,” says Tim Siderakis, assistant dean for philanthropy and alumni relations in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Rajan’s research focuses on the application of information science and data intensive methodologies for the discovery, characterization and modeling of new materials. Along with computational studies, he is a leader in the field of advancing quantitative methods for the interpretation of nanoscale chemical-imaging techniques such as atom probe tomography.
He received a doctor of science (ScD) in materials science, minoring in science and technology policy, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978, and followed with postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge. He received a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy and materials science from the University of Toronto in 1974.
Prior to joining Iowa State in 2005, he was a faculty member at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a staff scientist at the National Research Council of Canada. More than 40 doctoral and master’s students have graduated under his guidance. He also supervised nearly 50 postdoctoral scientists in materials science, physics, computer science and statistics.
Rajan has authored or co-authored more than 300 publications and has delivered more than 270 invited lectures and presentations. He is the founding editor-in-chief of the new journal Materials Discovery, and serves on numerous national and international panels, including the National Academy of Sciences’ Material Science and Engineering Panel at the Army Research Laboratory.
He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including most recently the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award. The award is given to researchers who have had a significant impact in their discipline — in this case materials informatics — and are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements.