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Dawnielle Farrar-Gaines, Johns Hopkins University

Candidate for MRS Secretary

Dawnielle Farrar-GainesDr. Dawnielle Farrar-Gaines is a distinguished research scientist and inventor with a diverse background spanning government (including space and defense), academia and private sector. She uses her inter-disciplinary skills to design and fabricate devices/systems small enough to fit on the edge of a piece of paper, but large enough in impact to service our military and medical communities.

Dr. Farrar-Gaines earned a Ph.D and M.S. in materials science and engineering, as well as an M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park; and a B.S. in physics (minor in Chemistry) from Lincoln University.

Dr. Farrar-Gaines’ research interests include micro/nano systems, polymeric materials, functional coatings, and transducers. Of her many projects, one recent innovation involves reconstruction of the ossicular chain to restore hearing to those impaired by middle-ear damage (conductive hearing loss) or disease. This work makes use of a piezoelectric material technology she developed that provides surgeons with the ability to determine proper mechanical forces across the traditional titanium prosthesis and also confirm that hearing has been properly restored in-situ (opposed to months after surgery), a capability that was previously unavailable to surgeons and required more “feel” and experience without intra-operative measures to confirm decisions. A variation in the fabrication process of the referenced material allows the technology to also be used for noise-reduction, hearing protection, and microphone applications.

Dr. Farrar-Gaines is a Professor in the JHU School of Engineering, an elected member of the Board of Directors for the Materials Research Society, has authored/co-authored numerous papers, and holds multiple patents. She recently achieved Master Inventor status, has been featured in several magazines/articles, and was also awarded the Innovation in Technology Award, in recognition of her “distinguished contributions to the engineering profession in the area of smart materials”. She also mentors students through the post-doc level.

Candidate's Statement

In 2006, I joined MRS as a new member to the materials field with a background in Electrical Engineering. At that time, my research interest required a merging of the electrical and materials engineering fields and I had just covered significant ground with my research findings. I received an invitation to highlight my work as an invited speaker for one of the technical sessions. After my first meeting, I knew that this society would be part of my portfolio for years to come, as I thoroughly enjoyed the various symposia and established a good network in a very short period of time. Shortly thereafter, I joined the Women in Materials Science & Engineering (MS&E) subcommittee where I was able to make an impact as a committee volunteer. I co-chaired four different technical sessions while being involved with the subcommittee, and by 2010, I was appointed Chair of the subcommittee.

Upon completion of my term as Women in MS&E subcommittee chair, I was elected to the Board of Directors, effective January 2017. After being elected to the Board of Directors (BOD), I was able to observe clear differences between the subcommittee and board-level roles. As a director, I was responsible for setting direction for MRS, establishing policy, and providing operational oversight at a much higher level. I was charged with forecasting our 5-year plan as it relates to the direction of the society. Strategic decisions were made to ensure that the society would not only be equipped for upcoming change, but was also prepared to weather the storm during pockets of uncertainty. This was a very engaging and enlightening experience because it forced us (as a BOD) to re-examine our mission, streamline our vision, and also diversify the process going forward to  ensure  inclusion of the next generation of scientists/engineers.

In January 2020, I was elected to serve as an Officer of the Board of Directors. In this role, I am responsible for determining how the organization carries out its mission through long- and short- range planning and review. I lead periodic assessments of Board performance and Board member participation, provide ongoing counsel to the President and Executive Director on steps to enhance Board effectiveness, and also serve as Chair of the Governance Committee, where I work with Board members and Headquarter staff on society-focused charges. This year’s charges include: 1) planning for our 50th Anniversary with a focus on investing in community Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) action and 2) overseeing the DEI audit with McKinley Advisors of our key governance practices – all efforts aligned with the MRS Strategic and DEI Aspirations.

Why would I like to serve another term as Officer of the Board?

I am interested in continuing my service as an Officer of the Board because I desire to be part of an organization that is committed to influencing the direction of the materials field. There is much to do as we pivot from our previous in-person meeting format, to offering virtual and hybrid meeting content. Although these changes were established as a result of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to expand our technical reach. My exposure thus far has allowed me to contribute to the advancement of the society in ways that I would not have imagined, all while positively impacting the membership. My leadership, technical expertise, and role as an Officer of the Board would enable me to use the knowledge and skills acquired to make an even broader impact in the years ahead.