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Cornell University scientist elected to National Academy of Engineering

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Christopher K. Ober, professor of materials science and engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinctions for an engineer.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering was well-represented in the academy’s new class, which also includes adjunct professor Kelin J. Kuhn and alumni Peter F. Green, Ph.D. ’85, and Jie Xue, Ph.D. ‘92.

Election to the academy honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice or education… or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education,” according to a Feb. 7 announcement by the academy. The election of Ober and Kuhn brings the current total of NAE members in Cornell Engineering to 26.

Christopher K. Ober, Click to open gallery view
Christopher K. Ober
Ober, the Francis Norwood Bard Professor of Metallurgical Engineering, was elected for “the invention of new photoresist families enabling high-resolution lithography in microelectronics manufacturing.” His research focuses on fine-tuning the thermal, optical and electrical properties of polymers through precise changes to molecular structure. He has co-authored more than 500 scientific publications and shares more than 50 patents. Formerly chair of his department and interim dean of Cornell Engineering, Ober currently serves as the Lester B. Knight Director of the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility, one of the nation’s premier nanofabrication sites.

“Chris is known internationally for his clever use of organic polymer chemistry to design macromolecules capable of spontaneously assembling to create patterns at resolutions set entirely by the microscopic molecular dimensions, stiffness, and thermodynamics,” said Lynden Archer, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering. “Used in concert with macroscopic processing methods such as photolithography, his work has transformed how we think about high-resolution patterning of materials for next-generation microelectronics devices.”

“Chris Ober is an integral part of our department, a wonderful mentor to his students, a caring adviser and a respected leader who has served as a role model to me and many others in all aspects of being a successful professor,” said Lara Estroff, professor of materials science and engineering and chair of the department. “We are also thrilled for Kelin, Peter and Jie, and congratulate them on their well-deserved recognitions. The multiple connections to our department in this year’s NAE class is a testament to the strength and impact of our research community.”

Kuhn, who spent much of her career at Intel, was elected for “technical contributions enabling development and integration of novel transistor devices.” From 2014-15, Kuhn was the Mary Shepard B. Upson Visiting Professor in Cornell Engineering. She has served on the external advisory committee for Cornell’s Platform for the Accelerated Realization, Analysis, and Discovery of Interface Materials (PARADIM) since its inception in 2016.

Green, the deputy laboratory director and chief research officer for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, was elected for “contributions in the physics of polymer diffusion, glass behavior, and organic electronic devices and leadership in the energy technologies.” He received the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Materials Sciences and Engineering.

Xue, who is now vice president of technology and quality at Cisco Systems Inc., was elected “for engineering and leadership contributions to high-reliability networking product development and manufacturing.”

Other Cornell Engineering alumni elected this year include Neil Gershenfeld, M.S. ’87, Ph.D. ’90; Donald Goldfarb ’63, who returned as a visiting professor for the 1979-80 academic year; Lily Young ’65, M.S. ’67; and Linda Zall ’72, M.S. ’74, Ph.D. ’76.

The newly elected class will be formally inducted during the NAE’s annual meeting on Oct. 1.