Published March 7, 2019
Robert E. Baier, UB Distinguished Professor and an internationally known biomedical engineer and biosurface chemist, died March 2 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a yearlong illness. He was 79.
A UB faculty member since 1983, Baier was interested in how surfaces interact with one another. His work has applications in numerous areas, from biomedical science and engineering, to environmental science and engineering. His research for the Navy led to non-toxic coatings to keep marine creatures off the hulls of ships, while his work on symptoms of dry eye disease helped lead to the development of Systane lubricant eye drops.
He also helped develop titanium dental implants, which are used worldwide, as well as a mouthwash that removes plaque from teeth.
A native of Buffalo, Baier spent two years as a surgical technician at Buffalo General Hospital operating a heart-lung machine and dialysis equipment. He earned a BS in physics from Cleveland State University in 1962 and a PhD in biophysics from UB in 1966, and then did postdoctoral training in surface chemistry as a National Academy of Sciences fellow in the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
He became a licensed professional engineer in Ohio and in New York.
Baier spent 16 years as a researcher at Calspan Advanced Technology Center, becoming principal physicist and doing work on chemical and biological defense for the military. After several years as an adjunct professor in the School of Dental Medicine, he joined the UB faculty full time in 1984 as executive director of the New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Health-care Instruments and Devices .
He stepped down from that position in 1989, but continued as co-director, and later executive director, of the Industry/University Center for Biosurfaces, which was supported for two decades by the National Science Foundation.
He most recently was professor of biomaterials in the Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences in the dental school. He also help appointments as a volunteer professor of ophthalmology, research professor of physiology and biophysics, and adjunct professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Baier published extensively in many areas of biosurface physics, particularly involving dental and medical implant technology. He held numerous patents, and lectured on a variety of scientific topics.
He was the recipient of numerous awards, among them an honorary doctorate in odontology from Lund University in Sweden in 1994 for his work on dental implants. That same year he was elected founding fellow of American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.
He is a past president of the Society for Biomaterials (U.S.) and a fellow of the International Union of Societies of Biomaterials Science and Engineering.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9 a.m. March 8 in St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, 1317 Eggert Road at Main Street, Eggertsville.