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About Allen T. Gwathmey



Allan T. Gwathmey

Surface Science Initiative,

University of Virginia

The purpose of the Allan T. Gwathmey Surface Science Initiative is to promote linkages between the various University of Virginia research programs examining surface phenomena in departments spread across the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and to provide new forums for the promotion and exploration of interdisciplinary aspects of Surface Science. Inspiration for this initiative came from the principles and vision of one of Surface Science’s pioneers, the late UVA Chemistry Professor Allan T. Gwathmey.

The study of surfaces and surface phenomena is an increasingly important scientific frontier in which new advances often lead to handsome technological rewards and societal benefits. The chemical industry finds that it must rely on surface catalysis to make most chemical reactions commercially viable. Catalytic converters and scrubbers have improved our environment and selective chemical catalysis has reduced our feedstock needs and waste production. Corrosion and wear at surfaces contributes many billions of dollars of annual loss to the U.S. economy yet much of the related Surface Science has remained unexplored at the atomic level. As the microelectronics industry shrinks the size of its devices in the interest of improved speeds and capacities the surface-to-volume ratio of the devices has been increasing rapidly (~1/r) and surface effects are becoming key features of successful designs. Many of the glamorous high technology materials currently under development are composite or metastable materials whose quality control depends critically on our ability to monitor and manipulate surface growth during materials fabrication. Beyond these physical examples of the technological impact of Surface Science on society, new fields of "interfacial medicine" have been developing based on the knowledge that immunological response occurs at cellular membrane surfaces as do many other important physiological processes such as oxygen transport into the body, etc. Although an improved understanding of surface processes would clearly be of technological and societal benefit, rapid progress has been difficult to achieve because of the interdisciplinary nature of the science in which elements of condensed matter physics, chemistry, engineering, and medicine must often be integrated together. The Gwathmey Surface Science Initiative is dedicated to promote interdisciplinary inquiry, learning, and collaboration amongst Surface Science researchers at the University of Virginia and beyond.

The Gwathmey Initiative maintains a bimonthly seminar series devoted to state-of-the-art research issues in Surface Science which cut across the traditional boundaries of the departments and schools of the University. The goal of this series is to bring world-renowned researchers and scholars to the University of Virginia to discuss current scientific opportunities and practices worldwide and to identify and promote new opportunities for interdisciplinary research in Surface Science. A research retreat in the Spring is being organized to foster greater collaboration amongst UVA faculty and students and to promote increased awareness of the University's current resources in Surface Science. A mailing list has been established for those wishing to stay abreast of news and updates concerning the Gwathmey Initiative’s Seminars and Research Retreat. We hope that this web page will serve as a convenient starting point for those seeking information about the Gwathmey Initiative and Surface Science activities at Virginia. We encourage you to give us feedback about how this web page might be improved.


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