Solar Nanotechnology Expert Named as Twelfth Governor’s Chair

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Ramamoorthy Ramesh, an authority in the physics of functional materials, has been named the twelfth University of Tennessee–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair. He has also been appointed as deputy director for science and technology at ORNL.

Ramesh will serve as Governor’s Chair for Nanomaterials Engineering, based in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He began on June 1.

Ramesh arrives from the University of California, Berkeley, where he will continue to serve as the Purnendu Chatterjee Endowed Chair in Energy Technologies in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and on the physics faculty. In addition, he serves as a faculty senior scientist in the Materials Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. From 2011 to 2012, he served as director of the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technologies Program, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade.

Ramesh’s research is important to the development of the next generation of thin film technology used in solar panels and computer memory. His work advances solar and information storage technology by improving energy transfer while making products thinner.

“Ramesh has a long career of cutting-edge material sciences research and leadership in bringing scientific discoveries to market,” said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “His expertise will prove invaluable to our students and faculty as well as researchers at ORNL.”

Ramesh’s group is involved in understanding the relationship between electricity and magnetism through fundamental studies of multifunctional magnetic materials—called multiferroic and magnetoelectric materials. The goal is to promote energy efficiency in products by enabling the electric field control of magnetism. He is also exploring light-matter interactions, useful for solar technology, and the fundamental science of thermal transport, the process of capturing heat and converting it to electricity.

“So much of our manufacturing wastes energy,” Ramesh said. “If we can capture energy and reuse just 10 percent of it, we could save billions of dollars a year.”

His breakthrough research has led to a new generation of computer memory devices that can retain stored information even when not powered, termed Ferroelectric Random Access Memories.

Ramesh was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2011 and is a recipient of the 2001 Humboldt Senior Scientist Prize. He has published more than 400 papers and been cited more than 35,000 times, making him one of the world’s most highly cited scientists.

Ramesh has been a driving force in moving innovation to the marketplace, most recently at SunShot and as director of the Berkeley Nanoscience and Nanoengineering Institute and the Singapore-Berkeley Research Institute for Sustainable Energy. Prior to his SunShot duties, Ramesh served as associate chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at UC Berkeley. He joined UC Berkeley in 2004 after several years as a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland and a member of the technical staff at Bell Communications Research.

“We will benefit from Ramesh’s personal commitment to and passion for the education of the scientific workforce of the future,” said Thom Mason, ORNL director, in a statement. “He has successfully mentored many undergraduate interns, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers, and I expect him to continue to build on the momentum that we have created around our graduate education initiatives with UT.”

Ramesh received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1980 from Madras University, Madras, India, and master’s and doctoral degrees in materials science from UC Berkeley in 1987.

The UT-ORNL Tennessee Governor’s Chair Program is funded by the state of Tennessee and ORNL. It is designed to attract exceptionally accomplished researchers from around the world to boost joint research efforts that position the partnership as a leader in the fields of biological science, computational science, advanced materials, and neutron science. Eleven of the twelve Governor’s Chairs now have joint appointments at UT Knoxville and ORNL.

Other UT–RNL Governor’s Chairs include:

  • Jeremy Smith, a computational biologist who came to UT and ORNL from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He was appointed in 2006.
  • Howard Hall, an expert in nuclear security who came to UT and ORNL from Lawrence Livermore National Lab. He was appointed in 2009.
  • Alexei Sokolov, a polymer scientist who came to UT and ORNL from the University of Akron. He was appointed in 2009.
  • Yilu Liu, an electric grid researcher who came to UT and ORNL from Virginia Tech. She was appointed in 2009.
  • Thomas Zawodzinski, an energy storage researcher who came to UT and ORNL from Case Western Reserve University. He was appointed in 2009.
  • Frank Loeffler, a biologist and environmental engineer who came to UT and ORNL from Georgia Tech. He was appointed in 2009.
  • Robert Williams, a genetics and biomedical researcher who was the Dunavant Chair in the Department of Pediatrics at UT Health Science Center. He was appointed in 2009.
  • William Weber, a materials scientist who came to UT and ORNL from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He was appointed in 2010.
  • Brian Wirth, a radiation expert who came to UT and ORNL from the University of California, Berkeley. He was appointed in 2010.
  • Terry Hazen, an environmental biologist who came to UT and ORNL from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was appointed in 2011.
  • Sudarsanam Suresh Babu, a materials scientist who came to UT and ORNL from The Ohio State University. He began his position on July 1.

C O N T A C T:

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460,

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