Friday, September 23, 2005

Countdown to Saturday Launch

Inside UVA by Charlotte Crystal

Two professors plan to watch their former student rocket into space

On Oct. 1, barring bad weather, Greg Olsen, a U.Va. alumnus, businessman, scientist and inventor will rocket into space in a Russian spacecraft, just the third private citizen ever to fly as a space tourist.Watching him from front-row seats near the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, along with family and friends, will be two of his former U.Va. professors, Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf and William Jesser, as well as Jesser’s wife, Barbara.

Three astronauts, including U.Va. alumnus 
Greg Olsen (left) prepare for a space journey.

Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, a materials scientist and retired University Professor of Applied Science, and Jesser, past chairman of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, taught Olsen when he was a graduate student at U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science in the 1960s and 1970s.

Olsen was Jesser’s first doctoral student and the professor-student pair published several papers together. He also studied both with Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf and her late husband, Heinz Wilsdorf, a metallurgist and the first chairman of materials science, who died in 2000.

“This may be one of my most important trips ever,” said Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, who can recall seeing horse-drawn carts on the streets when she was a child in Germany.

“It should certainly bevery a  memorable trip,” Jesser added. “It will be a little surreal, imagining Greg up in the space station, doing experiments.”
Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf and William Jesser look
over plans for a new engineering school building
being built thanks to a $15 million gift from Olsen
Since completing his studies, Olsen has enjoyed a successful career in business and in 2000 made the largest gift ever to the engineering school. That year, Olsen pledged $15 million to the school, with $14 million going toward a new building and $1 million to cover related expenses. The building, which will connect the materials science and chemical engineering buildings and house a Center for Nanoscopic Design of Materials, will be named Wilsdorf Hall, in honor of Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf and her husband.

Also contributing to the building was the family of rock star Dave Matthews, whose father, the late John W. Matthews, also studied with Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf in South Africa and did ground-breaking research with Jesser at U.Va.

Born in 1945, the son of an electrician, Olsen earned dual bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and physics from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. He completed a master’s degree in physics there before enrolling at U.Va., where he received a doctorate in materials science in 1971. His dissertation topic was “The FCC-BCC Transformation in Thin Iron Films,” which built on research into crystal growth, which he had studied with Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf and Jesser.

After an 18-month post-doc in South Africa, Olsen took a job with RCA Laboratories in Princeton, N.J., as a research scientist. There he studied crystal growth, lasers and photo-detectors. In 1984, he started his own company, Epitaxx, which made photodiodes for the fiber optics industry. He sold the company in 1990 for $12 million and the next year started Sensors Unlimited, a fiber optics manufacturing and research company, also based in Princeton. In 2000, that company was sold for $700 million.

Epitaxy, the science of how crystals grow on each other, has developed over the past half century. It began with theoretical work done by Jan van der Merwe, a South African doctoral student working in England after World War II in the same group of students as German-born Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, who was also studying in England after the war. She and her husband later taught in South Africa and in Pennsylvania before coming to U.Va. in 1963.

As a professor here, Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf introduced the study of epitaxy, one of the theories that undergirds the field of nanotechnology, pairing Jesser with John Matthews to conduct joint research, then pairing Olsen with Jesser. “I knew the founder of this field, and now it has grown into a very important field,” she said.

In the final weeks before takeoff, Olsen has been in quarantine in Russia to protect his health. Since October 2004, he has completed more than 500 hours of training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City near Moscow. The training center is named for the Russian cosmonaut who was the first man to orbit Earth.

Olsen will travel with two colleagues, NASA astronaut William McArthur and Russian cosmonaut Valery Tokarev. They will fly on a Russian Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft aboard a Soyuz rocket. Together, the three men will make up the 12th expedition crew to reach the International Space Station, which orbits at 240 miles above the Earth. They will spend about a week in the space station where Olsen will run experiments on remote sensing, infrared astronomy and crystals. During the trip, the trio will travel more than 3 million miles in space and orbit the Earth more than 100 times.

The company that arranged for Olsen to boldly go where only two space tourists have gone before, Space Adventures Ltd., was founded in 1998 by Eric Anderson, also a U.Va. alumnus. Anderson, who is the president and chief executive officer of Space Adventures, holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from U.Va. (SEAS, 1997). His space tourism company, which is headquartered in Arlington, Va., works in partnership with the Russian Federal Space Agency and a Russian rocket manufacturer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Greg Olsen to visit Int'l Space Station

Gregory Olsen will fulfill his dream to be the next space tourist under a deal signed this week in Moscow.

The 60-year-old US businessman and scientist will visit the International Space Station, probably in October.He will make the trip on a Russian Soyuz vehicle, spending just over a week on the orbiting outpost.Dr Olsen will become the third space tourist after flights by US citizen Dennis Tito in 2001 and South African Mark Shuttleworth in 2002.The contract between the Russian space agency and the Space Adventures company arranging Olsen's tour was signed in the last few days, agency spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko said.

The "ticket of a lifetime" will cost Dr Olsen $20m (£11m). He has already begun his cosmonaut training at Russia's Star City space centre near Moscow. Dr Olsen has long experience working in the scientific sphere and heads the Princeton-based research firm Sensors Unlimited. The company develops and produces highly sensitive film and photo cameras and works with the US space agency (Nasa).Apart from testing new Sensors Unlimited equipment in orbit, Dr Olsen plans to take with him a number of self-designed experiments.These will involve growing crystals on board the ISS and may have applications in his imaging business.

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Two MSE Faculty Awarded Tenure

Associate Professor Giovanni Zangari was awarded tenure.

Assistant Professor Leonid Zhigilei was promoted to Associate Professor and awarded tenure.

Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf Elected TMS Fellow 2005

The highest honor bestowed by The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, the honorary class of Fellow was established in 1962; Charter Fellows were inducted in 1963. To be inducted, a candidate must be recognized as an eminent authority and contributor within the broad field of metallurgy, with a strong consideration of outstanding service to the Society. The maximum number of living Fellows cannot exceed 100.

The following is an excerpt from a nomination letter.

...she has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues and is recognized as the top contributor to understanding plasticity. She has devoted her entire career to developing this understanding in terms of low energy dislocation structures and has succeeded in using these structures to provide a unified approach that explains the details of the stages of work hardening, texture development, fatigue, creep, wear and other details of plasticity. For decades, she has been internationally recognized for her contributions to the field of plasticity. She extended her understanding of dislocation theory to give a basis for melting of metallic crystals, explaining the melting temperature and the localized structure of the liquid state. She won an award for that work in 1965. Bill Nix’s letter recognizes the dilemma of why she has not become a fellow of TMS before now. Being in her 80’s and of female gender adds motivation to bestow this award at this time.

There is a second dimension to her contributions. She has applied her knowledge of plasticity to sliding contacts and contact-spot wear in electrical brushes. Her success in this area has led to numerous patents and the development of metal fiber brushes that posses the highest current carrying capacity of any commercially available electric brush. Such a technical development stands to revolutionize electric motors and their uses. This work has resulted is the establishment of her company, HiPerCon. The list of patents and patent applications attest to the impact of her contributions in this area. Her creativity is outstanding and it is no surprise that her work on electric brushes lead to her thinking about how motors could be improved. Indeed such thought has resulted in the patenting of a new design for electric motors that exceeds performance of even superconducting motors on a per pound basis. The brilliance she demonstrates extends to the class room, to her students, and colleagues. Her joining the fellowship of TMS does both honor.

Leonid V. Zhigilei receives the National Science Foundation CAREER award for “Computer Modeling of Short Pulse Laser Interaction with Metals,” 2004.

This research program is aimed at obtaining a fundamental understanding of fast non-equilibrium processes induced by short pulse laser irradiation of metal surfaces as well as on the analysis of practical implications of the revealed physical picture for the advancement of laser technologies. The microscopic mechanisms of melting and recrystallization occurring under extreme superheating/undercooling conditions, parameters that define the glass forming ability in laser quenching, mechanisms of laser induced photomechanical damage and spallation, cluster ejection in laser ablation are among the research questions being addressed in this program.

Dmitriy Ivanov, a PhD student initially supported by this grant, graduated in November of 2004 and accepted a research position at the National Centre for Laser Applications, Galway , Ireland . Two graduate students, Zhibin Lin and William Duff, as well as an undergraduate student Carlos Sevilla are currently working on this research program. Stephen Guy, an undergraduate student majoring in Computer Engineering, is leading the development of an educational software package for high school students. The educational tool uses computer modeling as a medium to provide vivid illustrations of science phenomena discussed in school classrooms and to engage and fascinate students with science and engineering.
Computational Materials Group web site:

Jim Howe receives the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society's "Champion H. Mathewson Award."


The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society's Champion H. Mathewson Award, established in 1933, is awarded to an author(s) of a paper or series of closely related papers considered the most notable contribution to metallurgical science during the period under review.

James Howe

“Static and In-Situ High-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy Investigations of the Atomic Structure and Dynamics of Massive Transformation Interfaces in a Ti-Al Alloy”Metallurgical & Materials Transactions, vol. 33A, August 2002

Biography: James Howe is a professor and director of the Electron Microscope Facility at the University of Virginia. His current research emphasizes the application of high resolution and analytical transmission electron microscope techniques to study the mechanisms and kinetics of phase transformations in nanoparticles and the behavior of interphase boundaries at the atomic level

Prof. Howe has received several prestigious awards for his research, including a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1985, a Humboldt Senior Research Award from the von Humboldt Foundation in Germany in 1999, and the Materials Science Research Silver Medal from ASM International in 2000. He was elected a Fellow of ASM International in 1997.

Quote: “Metallurgical and Materials Transactions is one of the top journals in the field due to its excellent peer review system. To be recognized by this system as making a notable contribution to metallurgical or materials science is truly a great honor. TMS meetings are an ideal forum to exchange ideas and the research reported in this paper is an outcome of that process. It evolved over a period of several years based on discussions at various TMS meetings and was first presented during the Massive Transformation Symposium at the TMS Fall Meeting in 2002. It is particularly satisfying to share this award with fellow TMS members.”

—James Howe on behalf of the Champion B. Mathewson Award Winners