2020 MSE Newsletter

Messages from R. Bruce van Dover and Lara Estroff


R. Bruce van Dover
R. Bruce van Dover


I would like to thank Materials Science and Engineering students, alumni, faculty and staff for allowing me to serve as the department chair for these past 5 years. During my tenure as chair, MSE has graduated many BS , M.Eng, M.S. and Ph.D. students. Not only has MSE grown in alumni we have also gained new faculty members, adding new breadth to our research and course offerings. Hundreds of innovative papers were written, and research flourishes in MSE in research centers, laboratories and interdisciplinary collaborations across the university and the world. 

Research at MSE continues to push the boundaries of material structure, leading to new fundamental understanding and new materials applications; I invite you to read about some highlights on page 6-13. As always the implications of our research are broad and wide reaching. Our faculty have moved forward research in quantum simulations, biomaterials and cancer research, semiconductors, energy storage, and crystal growth. 

I invite you to read about some awards and honors earned by our students on Page 24. Congratulations to Jin Suntivich, who has been granted tenure and promoted to the rank of associate professor, and to Professor Lara Estroff, who was promoted to the rank of full professor. Professor Ulrich Wiesner toured France as a CNRS Institute of Chemistry Ambassador and Professor Andrej Singer received an NSF Early Career award. 

Our students, undergraduate and graduate, continue to surpass all goals set for them. Students John Eom and Alicia Cintora have developed a simple yet powerful photovoltaic lesson module for incorporation into the national high school engineering curriculum. Two graduate and two undergraduate students have received prestigious NSF fellowships. 

Our alumni are an integral part of our community as well. On Pages 18-19 we profile, Brigadier General William Edwards, ‘96 Ph.D., who not only is a high-level researcher at HP leading an R&D product design team, but who also serves as an officer in the Oregon National Guard. 

I would also like to use this opportunity to once again congratulate our 2019 Distinguished Alumni Awardee, Dr. Yonn Rasmussen ‘89 Ph.D. She is vice president of Xerox Corporation. Under her purview is the engineering and manufacturing of digital printers. Yonn also exemplifies Cornell’s culture of service by serving not only on the MSE advisory board, but also on the Alumnae Engagement Committee of the President’s Council of Cornell Women as well as representing MSE alumni, and all alumni, as a member of the Cornell Board of Trustees. Please learn more about Yonn and her professional and service works on page 20-21. 

I was delighted that so many alumni were able to join us at our virtual reunion this year. We’ll certainly look into keeping this option available in the future, in addition to our yearly on-campus celebration. Please stay connected with us: hearing from our recent and established alumni helps us continue to evolve our program to better serve our current students. 

But even as the department has flourished, we have also endured strain. This year we have faced challenges due to COVID-19, including an abrupt move to remote learning. I would like to thank our entire community for handling this situation better than anyone could have hoped. In 2019, MSE mourned the loss of Emeritus Professor Stephen L. Sass. Plans are in the works for a symposium in remembrance of all that Professor Sass contributed to research and academics in the department. Please see page 5 for more information. 

As I look back over my time as chair of Materials Science and Engineering, I am very proud of where we are. Moreover, I am eager to see where Prof. Lara Estroff’s leadership, as incoming Chair, will take us. Lara is a committed researcher and educator, and since joining MSE in 2005 she has been dedicated to seeing the growth and diversification of our department. Lara has served as our Director of Graduate Studies since 2015 and her commitment to our students and their success is unparalleled. 

Thank you to all of the MSE Community for allowing me to serve as the Chair and best wishes to all. 



R. Bruce van Dover


Lara Estroff
Lara Estroff


Thank you, Bruce not only for your warm welcome, but also for your years of service. I look forward to continuing to grow the vibrant department you have advanced over these past 5 years. I would also like to extend my thanks to my colleagues for affording me this opportunity to further develop the department to which we are all committed. I am honored to be the first female chair of MSE at Cornell, and I look forward to working with all of you in the years ahead. 

We find ourselves at an uncertain, and yet exciting, time in higher education. We are pushing ourselves and our students to teach and to learn in ways we had never imagined. Together, we have faced lab shutdowns and reactivations, and explored creative ways in which to continue doing the research that is the backbone of our department. As I look forward, I know that as a result of these challenges and opportunities, we will emerge stronger as a community and more nimble as a department. 

Our department is built upon a triumvirate of faculty, students, and staff. In the coming years, my goals are to empower and support all of them to excel and lead in the greater materials research and education arenas. In research, Cornell MSE continues to focus on driving fundamental science with real-world impact within a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environment. We have multiple faculty leading research centers and multi-PI collaborative efforts across campus, several of which are highlighted throughout this Newsletter. In education, we are continuing to develop and evolve our undergraduate program as well as attracting some of the best PhD, MS, and MEng students to our graduate programs. Lastly, but in no way least, we strive to foster an equitable, diverse, and inclusive community. Amidst the turmoil gripping our country, I have been heartened to see our students, faculty, staff, and alumni come together to support each other and push us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. MSE is a small department, however this allows us to form deep connections among our faculty, staff, students and alumni. These connections, just like our research collaborations, give us strength to come together to realize real change in our community and make our potential impacts widespread. 

Please stay connected, opportunities to support the growth of MSE are listed on our website and page 22. We are so proud of all of our alumni, and without you, we would not be recognized as one of the top materials science and engineering programs in the world, or advance beyond where we are. 

Thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to seeing where MSE goes with our combined efforts. 

Warm regards, 

Lara Estroff