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Regents' Professor: Subhash Mahajan


March 30, 2007

Subhash Mahajan will have to come up with something really special next year to keep his career hot streak going.

In 2004, the professor in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering received the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society national Educator Award. In 2005, Mahajan was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.

Seven outstanding ASU faculty members are being honored as President's and Regents' Professor. The awards are among the highest honors for faculty excellence.

Regents' Professors stand out for their accomplishments in many areas, including excellence in teaching, exceptional achievements in research or other creative activities, and national and international distinction in their fields. The Regents' Professors include Subhash Mahajan, pictured above, director of the School of Materials; Laurie Chassin, professor of psychology; Robert Denhardt, director of the School of Public Affairs; and Richard Rogerson, Rondthaler chair of economics.

The President's Professor honor was created to recognize tenured faculty who have made outstanding contributions to undergraduate education at ASU. This year's class includes Ted Humphrey, a professor of philosophy in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU; Jane Maienschein, a professor of biology; and Jess Alberts, a professor of communication.

In 2006, he was named director of the university’s new School of Materials, which is jointly administered by the engineering school and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He also was elected last year to the board of trustees of ASM International, a leading worldwide metals and materials industry organization.

He’s following up those distinctive achievements in 2007 by being named an ASU Regents’ Professor, one of several typically chosen for the honor each year for outstanding accomplishments in teaching, scholarship, research, creative activities, and national and international recognition in their fields.

Regents’ Professors serve as advisers to the ASU president and as consultants throughout the university.

After more than 40 years earning professional distinctions in industry and academia, “I think now I can say I made a good career decision,” Mahajan says.

That decision first took him from a top ranking in the 1961 class at the Indian Institute of Science in his native India to a doctorate in materials science and engineering four years later at the University of California-Berkeley.

He went on to work for several years with the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in England and for more than a dozen years with AT&T Bell Labs in United States. He would hold academic positions in Germany, Belgium and France, and with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, before coming to ASU in 1997 and being named chair of the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering in 2000.

Over that time, Mahajan has become an international leader in materials engineering education and research, says Nik Chawla, a professor in the School of Materials, who nominated Mahajan for Regents’ Professorship.

Chawla says Mahajan has done pioneering work in materials engineering, contributing to significant technological advances that have brought a wide range of benefits to society.

Chawla cites the more than 200 research papers Mahajan has published in leading science and engineering journals, as well as significant writing and editing for leading science encyclopedias in the fields of semiconductor technology and materials.

Mahajan has had a comparably broad impact on materials engineering education through many successful curriculum and program development efforts, says Stephen Goodnick, ASU’s associate vice president of research.

Goodnick points also to Mahajan’s work to promote science and technology in the public arena through years of leadership in professional engineering societies.

“His national and international stature is clearly at the highest level,” Goodnick says.

Mahajan’s focus now is primarily on reaching a single goal.

“I want to put the School of Materials on the map,” he says.

The school’s goal to move into the upper rankings among its peers is one of the target objectives of ASU President Michael Crow’s “New American University” vision. Mahajan says the school’s values and priorities reflect that vision’s commitment to interdisciplinary research that brings various areas of science into collaboration to do use-inspired research to meet the most pressing technological and social needs of local and global communities.

“I think the School of Materials is critical to such a goal,” he says, “because many of the technological advancements that will satisfy social needs and help the country maintain economic competitiveness will depend ultimately on the development of new and better materials.”

Mahajan will have to help lead that endeavor while dealing with the effects of increased visibility brought on by his recent string of honors, awards and high-profile positions.

“There are more demands on my time for outside activities,” he says. “More people call you asking you to give lectures, and you get a lot more invitations to events. I have to keep my schedule under control.”

It’s easier, though, if you love what you do, and Mahajan says he is as enthusiastic about his career field as ever. When he does need a break, “I manage to read a book about something other than engineering once in a while,” he says.

He also keeps up a regimen of long walks and swimming, and for a mental hiatus from materials engineering he listens to music – jazz, Indian and classical, turning especially to Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Mendelson to take him away from the material world into the ethereal.