UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Last year, thousands of people with inoperable liver cancer received hope from a treatment that involves injecting millions of microscopic, radioactive glass spheres near the tumor.
Others, suffering from chronic wounds, experienced relief thanks to new bioactive glass that bonds to skin and allows it a better chance to heal.
The co-inventor of these technologies, Delbert Day, a master's and doctoral graduate from Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is among seven Penn State alumni who received the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award — the highest honor the University bestows upon its alumni.
“You are always surprised and flattered to receive this kind of recognition,” said Day, who accepted the award in May. “When it’s the people who know you best, when they see something that in their opinion is an achievement, that means quite a bit.”
Day, a prolific inventor and esteemed materials scientist, has published more than 400 papers on the properties, structures and uses of glass, and has received 47 U.S. and foreign patents. In 2017, the National Academy of Inventors named him a fellow.
But Day’s career may have had a much different trajectory had he not answered the phone one day nearly 61 years ago.
A life-changing phone call
On the other line was Guy E. Rindone, then a faculty member of the Department of Ceramic Science and Engineering, the predecessor to the Department of Material Science and Engineering, who would go on to have a long career at Penn State, including more than a decade as department head.
Rindone remembered Day from a ceramics conference in Pittsburgh months before and inquired whether Day had considered attending graduate school.
Day, who was weeks away from completing his undergraduate degree at the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, intended to leave academia and pursue a career in industry, but something about the phone call intrigued him enough that he agreed to visit Penn State.