Originally published in Terra Magazine – January 30, 2015 – by Doug Keszler

Doug KeszlerI AM OFTEN ASKED ABOUT THE STEPS leading to establishment of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry headquartered at Oregon State University.

The story starts with the glimmer of an idea that emerged in the mid-1980s. The idea took hold in the 1990s, and culminated in 2011 with the establishment of a multi-institutional research center dedicated to developing the next generation of electronic circuits — circuits that are cleaner, cheaper and faster to make for the ever-changing demands of industry and consumers. Driving the center’s formation was a critical mass of relationships, philanthropy, distinctive science, strategic planning, numerous institutional partnerships and opportunities for leveraging.


In the beginning, there was the OSU Foresight! Campaign, a modest fundraising effort that provided startup packages for three faculty hires in the mid-1980s — a “cluster hire” focused on building the area of materials science. At the time, materials science was a barely emerging field, making OSU an early player. John Wager in electrical engineering and I were two of the hires. We rarely interacted, however, until the mid-1990s. Our collaboration, combining fundamental chemistry and electrical engineering, eventually blossomed and formed the basis for the unique research now done in the Center.  Read more…

Name: Doug Keszler

Area of Study / Position Title: Distinguished Professor of Chemistry; Director, Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (CSMC); Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, College of Science.

Why chemistry? (What about it initially interested you?): My father worked as an engineer for IBM, so I was exposed to high-tech from a very early age. That exposure led to an intense interest in the chemistry of materials.

Research focus (in non-science terms) or basic job duties? I am responsible for the research, education, outreach, and diversity activities of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, a Phase-II Center for Chemical Innovation; we annually support approximately 100 researchers. For the College of Science, I am helping to grow the research enterprise and enhance graduate education.

One thing you truly love about your job? Working with a broad network of colleagues and students in academics and industry.

One interesting/strange factoid about yourself. I am a retired shepherd. In past times, I herded sheep with my border collie – Kate. (We also won national titles in Dog Agility)

Sumit Saha (Photo by: Justin Quinn, c/o Daily Barometer)
Sumit Saha (Photo by: Justin Quinn, c/o Daily Barometer)

By: Dacotah-Victoria Splichalova

Originally printed in The Daily Barometer February 4, 2014 (used with permission)

Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry looks at sustainable compounds used in electronics.

Behind every LCD screen, there are metal components that require high-quality UV exposure in order for the television or iPhone displays to work more efficiently.

Higher quality metals used in LCDs produce faster pixels, which results in better quality devices.

“We’re looking at elements that are more commonly available and affordable like tin, zinc and aluminum,” said Shawn Decker, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of chemistry and a member of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry. “Our goal is to discover ways to process these materials in more sustainable and less energy-consuming ways.”

Traditionally the materials that go into making electronic devices have been processed using various types of vacuum chambers, which takes a lot of energy, according to Decker. This process is of concern to Decker and his colleagues because it is inefficient and wasteful.

Recognizing the vital need to lessen the energy that goes into the production of these materials, the CSMC’s research is looking at cutting down the waste of materials and energy by focusing on more environmentally friendly compounds and solvents.

For this reason, one of the main solvents being used within the laboratory research is water.

The CSMC is a Phase-II Center for Chemical Innovation and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. It is the brainchild of Doug Keszler, a distinguished professor in the department of chemistry at OSU and the current director of the center.

Maintaining a strong emphasis on research collaboration, the CSMC brings together university, industry and community partners.

There are six university collaborators involved with furthering research discovery within the CSMC: Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Washington University in St Louis, Rutgers University, UC Davis and UC Berkeley. Hewlett Packard, IBM and Intel are a few of the CSMC’s industry partners.

The CSMC is comprised of researchers from various disciplines including inorganic and computational chemists, mechanical engineers, material science specialists, physicists and electrical engineers.

The industry strives to make displays on electronic devices, like the iPhone or the flat screen television, thinner and thinner.

The overarching goal for CSMC researchers and its industry partners is to produce materials that will in turn shrink the electrical components and all of the parts that go into making these displays.

“These devices can take up less space and be nice and flush against your living-room wall or fit better in your coat pocket,” Decker said.

The center is working with different metals that are low-cost and reusable, so the energy it takes to produce these new materials is reduced.

Sumit Saha, a synthetic chemist, joined the CSMC this past fall as a postdoctoral research scholar.

Saha is focused on cultivating some of these new materials by working specifically with organometallic compounds, which are organic and inorganic metals combined.

This combination of the old technology (organic materials only) with the new (inorganic materials) is a bridge toward becoming more sustainable in the industry.

The opportunity to see how the CSMC’s research performs outside of the lab on the larger scale within industry is important for the researchers in order to recognize what the full potential and benefits are for society, according to Saha.

“It is a great center to work … to commercialize (students’ and faculty’s) research with the potential of starting up a new company,” Saha said. “Researchers need to share our science with the community in order to see if its going to be applicable or not.”

Undergraduate of the Quarter - Winter 2014
Undergraduate of the Quarter – Winter 2014

Corinne Brucks has been selected as one of our Undergrads of the Quarter for Winter 2014. Corinne grew up in Beaverton area.  She became interested in Chemistry at a young age (6-7th grade).  One of the advantages she notes from being homeschooled was that she was able to devote considerable time to her interests in Chemistry. She wrote long reports on chemistry topics and read multiple books on the subject from her local library – including a book series on each element and “The Periodic Kingdom” which she particularly enjoyed.  She initially enrolled at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri where she got an Associate Degree in Science. It was a professor at Cottey (Dr. Ganga Fernando) who was a key mentor that got the ball rolling for Corinne, providing her first research opportunity and encouraging her to apply to summer undergraduate research internships. Corinne is particularly grateful to Dr. Fernando for her help. Corinne always planned to return to OSU to complete her BS degree because of the strong reputation for its science program, and she loves OSU and Corvallis.  Her favorite classes so far at OSU have been Inorganic Chemistry (CH 411 & CH 412) and Dr. Ji has been her favorite Chemistry instructor.  She has had multiple research opportunities at OSU.  Her minor in computer science was inspired by a summer internship through our NSF Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (led by OSU Chemistry Professor Doug Keszler) in Professor Paul Cheong’s lab.  Last summer, she completed another CSMC internship down at the University of Oregon in Professor Mark Lonergan’s lab. She is currently working on an Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship and Creativity (URISC) supported project with Professor Sean Burrows on applying MATLAB to create algorithms for making the best biosensors. After graduation, she wants to go to graduate school in Chemistry. Her dream job would be to be a professor where she can teach and do research. She comments that she “enjoys explaining concepts to people”.  While not studying chemistry, Corinne likes to do ballroom dancing on campus.  Corinne is another wonderful example of the high caliber students that we attract to OSU Chemistry, and we are so proud of her successes.

Update: Corrine was also the recipient of the 1st ever Keith McKennon Memorial Scholarship.  The Chemistry Department is grateful for the support of alumni and friends who established this Scholarship. Corinne, will do a wonderful job of honoring this long-time friend of the Department through her contributions to the state, nation, and world.

Undergraduate of the Quarter - Winter 2014
Undergraduate of the Quarter – Winter 2014

Stefan was born in Indiana where he lived for his first six years. He subsequently moved around (Florida then British Columbia then Washington DC) before finally settling in the Lake Oswego area 16 years ago.  He wanted to come to OSU to take advantage of our in-state tuition and because he was interested in research.   He has a deep commitment to giving back to society – believing that we exist for the sake of making societal progress (the idealized world of “Star Trek”). At OSU, he has been surprised how much the professors will do to foster his growth.  He has worked particularly closely with Distinguished Emeritus Professor Darrah Thomas and Distinguished Professor Doug Keszler – commenting “I was surprised how important I was to them… they have been insanely supportive.” in fact, his life-long goal is to “follow in the footsteps of Dr. Ken Hedberg and Dr. Thomas by continuing to do research as long as possible.”  His favorite courses so far have been in the Physical Chemistry series and his favorite professor has been Professor Wei Kong.  Professor Kong “stays true to the material, doesn’t dumb it down – very pure.” Stefan is already following through on his commitment to giving back to society by serving as an Undergrad Research Ambassador. He gives talks to new students to get them excited about science.  Once he graduates he plans to get a masters degree in Chemistry before pursuing his PhD.  After school he would like to first work in industry (his dream job is working at Intel), but would like to end his career as a professor.  Stefan’s energy, passion and excitement are infectious. It is students like him that make OSU an amazing place and we congratulate Stefan for all his hard work!

Guest Blogger: Stefan Lucchini

Undergraduate research began as something I heard really helped someone get into grad school.  I was by no means a 4.0 student, which made me worry about my chances of getting into top schools after graduating.  I knew that one of my best options for gaining a competitive advantage was going to be hands on experience working in research.  Being only a freshman taking general chemistry, I did not have the greatest qualifications nor much of an idea as to what specific areas of research interested me.  Knowing I had to act quickly to get as much experience as possible, I emailed every professor whose research sounded interesting.

The professor I ended up working for was Dr. Darrah Thomas, an emeritus professor.  His research focus is in electron spectroscopy of small molecules.  Working in research completely changed my perspective on education.  It allowed me to fast-forward to the part where I am making a lasting, substantial contribution to scientific understanding.  Prior to my work with Dr. Thomas, I was coasting along my undergrad without much drive at all to end up anywhere.  I had no goal and no clear understanding of what I hoped to become.  By working in research, I was immersed in the wonders of scientific pursuit.  It was inspiring and it resulted in a sharp increase in my academic performance.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the work I did for Dr. Thomas, I felt compelled to explore other areas of chemistry.  When considering just how long a career is, I wanted to make sure I have found exactly the right field for me to call home.  After working in physical chemistry, material science, and biochemistry, I decided to material science was a place I could call home.  It was the perfect combination of chemistry and physics, all while being a booming, growing field with an exciting future.  I have been working for Dr. Douglas Keszler for 2 years so far and intend to continue until I graduate.

My work with Dr. Keszler has been focused on the thickness changes and ion exchange of HfO₂₋x(SO₄)x (HafSOx).  HafSOx is an inorganic photoresist material discovered in the Keszler laboratory.  The key, distinguishing feature of HafSOx is that it is currently the world leader in lithography resolution.  Through use of electron beam simulation, it has been found that HafSOx will be capable of lithographic techniques using extreme ultraviolet light, which are currently in development.  It will be capable of creating 13.5nm devices.  The extreme resolution capabilities of HafSOx will enable to be used to create ultra-small transistors and other electrical devices.  I feel privileged to be a part of such an exciting research project!

Undergraduate of the Quarter - Winter 2013
Undergraduate of the Quarter – Winter 2013

Jason was born in Corvallis, but moved to Philomath at age 5.  His science high school teacher and OSU alumni (Molly O’Malley) got him excited about science – he took anatomy & physiology, chemistry and biology in high school from her.  He came to OSU because of the positive experience his brother had at OSU and its close proximity to home, which reduced the cost of going to college.  While he started as a chemistry major with a pre-med option (as he loved anatomy and physiology in high school), his interests have transitioned to materials science and solid state chemistry during his time at OSU.  He first worked with Dave Cann in the Materials Science program on high temperature piezoelectrics. In 2011, he presented a poster at the International Symposium for Applications of Ferroelectrics on Vancouver Island, Canada.   In 2012, he participated in the NSF REU internship spearheaded by Chemistry Professor Doug Keszler and subsequently has transitioned into Keszler’s lab to work on oxide growth of amorphous metal films.  He has a hard time just picking one favorite course at OSU, but Experimental Chem 1 would be “up there” due to the course environment and the friends he made through the process. Glenn Evans and Mike Lerner would be his favorite instructors during his time at OSU.  In addition to chemistry, Jason has been an active participant in the OSU Men’s Choir.  He plans to go to graduate school at NC State after graduation to obtain a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering – likely focused on long range and short range ordering of materials.  We are proud of talented students like Jason that continue to raise the profile of our Department, College and OSU!