UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Zi-Kui Liu, professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Phases Research Laboratory, has been named the inaugural Dorothy Pate Enright Professor.
An endowed professorship is among the highest honors that can be bestowed on a faculty member. This endowed professorship was established through an estate gift of $1.33 million from Dorothy Enright of Houston, who died in February at the age of 98.
Enright, who earned her master’s degree in ceramic science in 1948 from Penn State, established the professorship to provide supplemental funds to an outstanding faculty member to continue and further their contributions to teaching, research and service.
"It is a tremendous honor to be appointed as the inaugural Dorothy Pate Enright Professor,” said Liu. “Dorothy’s productive career reflects both her dedication to the engineering profession and the quality education that Penn State provides to its students. Her generous gift to the University will have lasting impact in supporting us to continue our best efforts in educating future generations of scientists and engineers and move our field forward. Particularly, it will enable me and people in our research group to explore new research frontiers such as the prediction of emergent behaviors of materials.”
"I would like to express my great gratitude for her endowment and will do better than my best to live up to the expectation of the honor. I want to thank my colleagues and leadership in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and Penn State for their long term support, and I am grateful to students and research fellows in our Phases Research Lab for their diligent and hard work in last 20 years," said Liu.
Being appointed the inaugural Dorothy Pate Enright Professor is a testament to Liu’s leadership in the materials field.
“This is a well-deserved recognition of Professor Liu’s outstanding leadership in materials, and it is a singular honor to hold the inaugural Dorothy Enright Pate Professorship,” said Gary Messing, distinguished professor emeritus of ceramic science and engineering and former department head. “Dorothy was an incredible alumna who excelled as a graduate student during her Penn State days with classmates Guy Rindone and Della and Rustum Roy.”
Liu’s research interests focus on the modeling and design of a wide range of materials chemistry and processing through integrating first-principles calculations, statistic mechanics, thermodynamic/kinetic modeling and critically designed experiments for structural and functional applications.
Liu has published more than 500 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has recently written a textbook on Computational Thermodynamics of Materials. He has received numerous awards for his accomplishments and holds executive positions in materials science organizations, companies, and journals.
Liu is the immediate past president of ASM International, serving as president from 2019 to 2020, and as vice president from 2018 to 2019, and completing his three-year term on the society’s board of trustees. He also was a member of the board of directors of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS), 2008-11, and the board of trustees of ASM International, 2013-16. Liu received the J. Willard Gibbs Phase Equilibria Award from ASM International, the William Hume-Rothery Award from TMS, the Spriggs Phase Equilibria Award from the American Ceramic Society and the Lee Hsun Lecture Award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Metal Research.
Prior to joining Penn State’s faculty in 1999, Liu worked as a research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and as a senior research scientist at Questek Innovating LLC. He founded the NSF Center for Computational Materials Design and coined the term “Materials Genome,” which focuses on the important building blocks of engineered materials, much like genomes in biology. His company, Materials Genome Inc., owns the trademark.
Liu received a bachelor’s degree in metallurgy from Central South University in China, his master’s degree in materials engineering from the University of Science and Technology Beijing, and his doctorate in physical metallurgy from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.
About Dorothy Pate Enright
Enright graduated from the University of Alabama in three years, 1940-43, with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, metallurgy and ceramics. Although few women at that time studied chemistry and almost none had degrees related to engineering, Enright continued her studies at Penn State, where she completed her master of science degree in ceramics in 1948. Enright began her professional career in 1943 as a chemist with Esso Research Laboratories in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and finished in 2009, working part-time at Baker Hughes.
“Dorothy received her M.S. in ceramic science in 1948 and went on to have a productive career in the oil and gas industry at a time when there were few women working in this field,” said Susan Sinnott, head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “I had the great pleasure of meeting her during my last trip to Houston in 2019, and I was so impressed by her strong, warm and fiery personality. She wanted me to be sure to know that she was just an engineer doing her job.”
In an interview for an alumni profile two years before her death, Enright shared her advice to graduating students.
“Consider the diploma you receive as a passport,” said Enright. “It indicates that you have learned many facts, theories and skills in your particular field of study. It is now your responsibility to apply them in the real world. You are now on a new learning curve, and you should stay on it for a lifetime. Have a delightful journey!”