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Harmer to receive 2008 Sosman Award

Martin Harmer (center), working with a group of Lehigh graduate students.

Martin Harmer, director of Lehigh’s Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, has recently received two of the highest honors in his field.

In March, Harmer was chosen to receive the 2008 Robert B. Sosman Award from the American Ceramics Society (ACerS). The award, the top honor in ceramics, is named for the 20th century physical chemist who helped develop optical materials and made major discoveries about the phases of silica.

In May, Harmer was appointed to succeed David Williams as editor of Acta Materialia, one of the most prestigious journals in materials science and engineering. Williams, the former vice provost for research at Lehigh, was recently named president of the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

The Sosman Award is given annually to the person judged to have made the most significant contribution to the field of ceramics. As recipient, Harmer will deliver the plenary lecture at a symposium held in his honor at ACerS’s annual meeting in October 2008. He will also receive a piece of Steuben glassware.

In his plenary lecture, Harmer will discuss research in which he and his students have identified six grain-boundary “complexions” in the ceramic alumina, each characterized by a distinct rate of grain growth. The complexions can be controlled by making changes, often subtle, in chemistry and temperature, Harmer says.

The discovery could help engineers fine-tune the properties of ceramics, Harmer says, as grain boundaries play a key role in the creation of ceramic solids from powders and in the mechanical, chemical and other properties of the larger bulk material.

Harmer, the Alcoa Foundation Professor of materials science and engineering, joined the Lehigh faculty in 1980 and has earned international acclaim for his studies of the properties of structural and electronic ceramic materials and their control at the micro- and nanoscale. In 2006, he was awarded a Humboldt Research Award for senior scientists by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The honor is one of the most prestigious given by Germany.

In October of 2007, Harmer will deliver the plenary lecture at a meeting of the Brazilian Materials Research Society (MRS).

Harmer is the second member of Lehigh’s faculty in the past decade to receive the Sosman Award. Donald Smyth, the Paul B. Reinhold Professor Emeritus of materials science and engineering, won the honor in 1996.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Thursday, May 17, 2007

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