Annual event hosted by Lehigh’s Institute for Functional Materials and Devices (I-FMD) highlights opportunities and challenges in materials innovation

Lehigh’s Institute for Functional Materials and Devices (I-FMD) welcomed 10 invited speakers and about 70 attendees to the annual Lehigh Materials Symposium and Open House, held May 6, 2024, in Whitaker Laboratory.

“We were honored to have such a distinguished group of speakers share their knowledge and insights on a wide variety of topics at the cutting-edge of materials research and development,” said I-FMD director Himanshu Jain, Diamond Distinguished Chair and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

I-FMD develops innovative materials and devices to address critical challenges in healthcare, renewable energy, and resource security, leveraging Lehigh’s interdisciplinary expertise in materials synthesis, fabrication, processing, and characterization.

Collage of snapshots of various speakers at the Materials SymposiumProfessor Anand Jagota, Lehigh’s vice provost for research, and Stephen P. DeWeerth, professor and dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, joined Jain in welcoming attendees to the symposium. Jagota highlighted aspects of Lehigh’s strategic plan, Inspiring the Future Makers, that focus on enhancing interdisciplinary research across the university. DeWeerth emphasized the key roles Lehigh’s three Interdisciplinary Research Institutes (IRIs), including I-FMD, play in supporting these efforts.

To kick-off the presentations, Eliza Erickson, director of permit, license, and certification in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s newly formed Office of Transformation and Opportunity, spoke about the important role that universities play in the innovation ecosystem.

Professor John P. Coulter, the Rossin College’s senior associate dean for research followed her remarks with an overview of a $6 million grant recently awarded to Lehigh through the National Science Foundation’s  Accelerating Research Translation (ART) program. Coulter leads the 16-member, cross-college team that will build a research translation ecosystem to help turn the work of graduate students, postdocs, and faculty into real-world impact.

The invited speakers hailed from both industry (Saint-Gobain, Intel, Northrop Grumman, Evonik, and Corning) and academia (Penn State Materials Research Institute, Rowan University, and the NSF Princeton Photonics Engine).

“We heard a broad and compelling perspective on the challenges and opportunities in materials research,” said Jain. “A key theme throughout the presentations was the need to consider sustainability, in all its aspects, when pursuing new materials design and commercialization.” The teams behind multiple I-FMD thrust areas are working to tackle this challenge of sustainability in materials R&D.

As in prior years, the event concluded with a poster session where I-FMD faculty and PhD students presented both their overall research areas of interest as well as specific projects of special relevance to attendees. More than two dozen posters were presented.

Participants also toured Lehigh’s Materials Characterization Facility and Integrated Nanofabrication and Cleanroom Facility. These core managed facilities are open to all Lehigh faculty and student researchers as well as external industry and academic partners.

Himanshu Jain

Himanshu Jain, the T.L. Diamond Distinguished Chair in Engineering and Applied Science and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, directs the Institute for Functional Materials and Devices (I-FMD).

Main photo: Symposium participants converse in the Whitaker Lab lobby during a break. Inset photo, clockwise from top left: Speakers included Purnima Ruberu '23 MBA, technical marketing manager for semiconductors, Evonik; Rob Chimenti, visiting assistant professor, Rowan University; Stephen P. DeWeerth, dean, Rossin College; Ugonna Ohiri (left), senior R&D technologist, and  Dave Knuteson, manager of university research, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems.