Meeting Chairs

Click each name to read his or her biography.

Bernard Bewlay
GE Global Research

Silvija Gradečak
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sarah Heilshorn
Stanford University

Ralph Spolenak
ETH Zürich

T. Venky Venkatesan
National University of Singapore

Bernard Bewlay

Bernard Bewlay is a chief scientist at General Electric Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. He is currently leading a group that is developing advanced aircraft engine technologies. Bernard has extensive experience in high-temperature materials, including conventional turbine engine materials, such as nickel based superalloys and titanium alloys, and advanced high-temperature systems, such as titanium aluminides and refractory metal silicides. He has focused on structure-property-processing relationships in metallic alloys, ceramics and coatings, with particular emphasis on component design and applications.

He is the inventor on more than 90 issued patents and 90 published patent applications. He has published more than 120 articles in the area of processing-structure-property relationships in high-temperature temperature materials. He has given many invited talks throughout the world on intermetallics and high-temperature structural materials. He is a member of the Materials Research Society, TMS and the Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining. He is a fellow of ASM International.

Bewlay received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from Oxford University, United Kingdom. He has received several awards including, Fellow of ASM International (2000), the ASM International Alfred H. Geisler Award (1991), the GE Whitney Gallery Award (1991, 1998), the GE Global Research Blodgett Award (2011), the GE Whitney Award (2010), the GE Aviation William L. Badger Award (2011), the GE Global Research Charles Greskovich Award (2009), the Eastern New York Law Association Intellectual Property Award (2013), and the ASM International Engineering Materials Achievement Award (2013).

Silvija Gradečak

Silvija Gradečak is an associate professor of materials science and engineering at MIT. After receiving her M.S. in physics from the University of Zagreb in 1999, she moved to Switzerland to pursue her PhD in the field of III-V materials and electron microscopy at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. In 2003, she obtained her PhD in physics and subsequently was awarded the Swiss National Science Foundation Fellowship for Prospective Researchers. After spending two years as a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University, Gradecak joined MIT faculty in September 2006. 

Gradecak’s interdisciplinary research program is based on synthesis of materials with confined dimensions–including two dimensional films, one dimensional nanowires/nanotubes and zero dimensional nanocrystals–and their assembly into functional devices for applications in nanophotonics, nanoelectronics and in energy harvesting and conversion. To address some of the key challenges in the field of nanomaterials, she combines a set of unique synthesis and characterization techniques with robust material models and device fabrication. Gradecak has received several awards including NSF CAREER Award, 3M Innovation Award, Inaugural 2012 Nano Letters Young Investigator Lectureship, Merton C. Flemings Career Development Chair, Thomas Lord Career Development Chair and MIT Alumni Fund Award for Teaching and Education Enhancement.

Sarah Heilshorn

Sarah Heilshorn is an associate professor in the department of materials science and engineering and, by courtesy, of bioengineering and chemical engineering at Stanford University. Prior to joining Stanford in 2006, Heilshorn was a postdoctoral scholar in the department of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

She completed her Ph.D. and M.S. studies in chemical engineering at Caltech in 2004 and 2000, respectively, and was a visiting scientist at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. She earned a B.S. in chemical engineering at Georgia Tech in 1998.

She combines the fields of polymer science and protein engineering to design new materials that mimic those found in our own bodies. These materials are being explored for applications in minimally invasive regenerative medicine, robust self-assembly systems, and human tissue mimetics.

Recent recognitions for her research include the NSF Career Award and the NIH New Innovator Award. She serves on the editorial board of the journal Biomaterials Science and is the chair-elect for the Gordon Research Conference on Signal Transduction from Engineered Extracellular Matrices.

Ralph Spolenak

Ralph Spolenak became full professor at ETH Zürich in 2014 after a term as tenured associate professor from 2010 on and as assistant professor (tenure track) and chair of the laboratory for nanometallurgy starting in 2004. He is currently serving as the chairman of the board of the Scientific Center for Optical and Electron Microscopy (ScopeM) and served as the director of the Materials Research Center of ETH Zürich (a materials network encompassing 80 groups) for six years.
Spolenak was born in Wels, Austria. He studied physics at the Technical University of Vienna, Austria. After completing his diploma thesis in the field of solid state physics in 1995, and a brief research term at the University of Pavia, Italy, he moved to Stuttgart, Germany, to commence his PhD work at the Max-Planck-Institute for Metals Research and the University of Stuttgart. In 1999, he completed his dissertation on alloying effects in electromigration and was subsequently awarded the Max Planck Society's Otto Hahn medal for his achievements during his thesis.

In 1999, Spolenak was hired as a postdoctoral member of technical staff at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies in the USA. There he was working on the mechanical properties of thin metal films. During this time he became a member of the principal research team to establish the first dedicated Laue microdiffraction beamline at the Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. After a year as a visiting scientist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, he returned to the Max-Planck-Institute in 2002 to serve as a group leader.

The main research interests of Spolenak's group are the mechanical properties of metals at the nanoscale and how these properties can be influenced by metallurgical approaches. The combination of testing, characterization and modeling are essential for making significant advances in this field. This comprises the development of new, mostly synchrotron based, in situ testing methods that allow for analysis at the nanoscale. For several years, his research has expanded to size effects in all materials classes and properties. Recent research highlights include switchable semiconducting interference layers in the visible range at the nanometer length scale, color tuning in precious intermetallics, strain engineering to approaching the direct bandgap in Ge, microstructure tuning by ion irradiation, size effects in high entropy alloys and industry projects on coatings for biomedical materials and contact materials.

T. Venky Venkatesan

T. Venky Venkatesan is currently the director of the Nano Institute at the National University of Singapore (NUSNNI) where he is a professor of ECE, MSE and physics. He wore various hats at Bell Labs and Bellcore for about 17 years before becoming a professor at the University of Maryland for another 17 years.

As the inventor of the pulsed laser deposition (PLD) process, he has over 650 papers and 30 patents in the area of oxide thin films and is globally among the top 100 physicists (ranked at 66 in 2000) in terms of his citations (over 32,500 with a Hirsch Index of 91-Google Scholar).

He has graduated over 34 PhDs, 35 post docs and over 40 undergraduates. He is also the founder and chairman of Neocera, a company specializing in PLD and magnetic field imaging systems. Close to 10 of the researchers (PhD students and post docs) under him have become entrepreneurs starting over 17 different commercial enterprises. He is a fellow of the APS, winner of the Bellcore Award of Excellence, George E. Pake Prize awarded by APS (2012), President’s gold medal of the Institute of Physics Singapore, academician of the Asia Pacific Academy of Materials, Fellow of the World Innovation Forum, was a member of the Physics Policy Committee, guest professor at Tsinghua University Beijing, the Board of Visitors at UMD and the chairman, Forum of Industry and Applications of Physics at APS.