AU Press Releases

Brow became a 'glass guy' at Alfred

For Richard K. Brow, now the Curator’s Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Missouri University of Science & Technology (Missouri S&T), his career as a “glass guy” began in the classrooms of Alfred University, where he earned a BS degree in 1980 and an MS degree in 1982.

Brow, who delivered the 28th annual Samuel R. Scholes Sr. Lecture at the Kazuo Inamori School of Engineering, Alfred University, told his audience, “I am a glass guy. I love the material. I love the way it looks. I love the way it feels. I love the way it’s used.” He chose the title of his talk – “Engineering the Random Network: Scenes from One Career (so far) in Glass Science” – because it reflects both the structure of the material on which he has based his career, and the pathway that led him to it.

Reflecting back on his career, he said, “It started right here, with the teachers I had: Harrie Stevens, David Pye, Van Derck Frechette, William LaCourse.” (Stevens is a professor emeritus of glass science.

Pye is dean emeritus of the New York State College of Ceramics as well as professor emeritus of glass science; Frechette, although an emeritus professor, remained active in the field nearly until his death in March 2001 at the age of 85). LaCourse is a professor of glass science and associate provost for statutory affairs at the University).

“Bill LaCourse took me on for my senior thesis, and then for my master’s,” said Brow. “He is one of the guys who really got me excited” about the material and its properties.

Among his “unexpected” mentors were Helmut Schaeffer, whom he met when he spent his junior at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg in Germany, and Norbert Kreidl, whom he called the “most famous glass scientist in the world.” Both were also Scholes Lecturers, Kreidl in 1984 and Schaeffer in 2001.

He continued building connections when he did his Ph.D. at Penn State under noted glass scientist Carlo Pantano, now Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Materials Research Institute, and at Sandia National Laboratories, where he worked with fellow AU alumnus Robert Eagan, class of ’66, now retired from his position as a director at the labs.

As his own career took him from Sandia research labs into the classroom at Missouri S&T, Brow said he found even more ties between Alfred and what used to be called Missouri-Rolla. Graduates of Missouri-Rolla have taught or are teaching at AU, including current faculty members Dr. James Shelby, professor of glass science, and Dr. William Carty, professor of ceramic engineering. Several AU alumni are now working on their graduate degrees at Missouri S&T under Brow.

Throughout his career, Brow said he has worked with “colleagues who continue to teach and inspire” him. That’s the most important lesson he learned at Alfred: “Always be a student. Always take the opportunity to learn something new.”

“I learned glass the ‘Alfred way,’” said Brow, reciting from a page of notes he took in one of his first classes: “We can understand, and engineer, properties by understanding, and manipulating, the glass forming networks.”

Those networks, he told engineering students gathered for the lecture, “are the key to a puzzle.” The structure of a glass “tells us what makes this glass different.”

Engineering problems are what lead “to interesting glass science,” he said. “By manipulating the random network,” glasses can be engineered to solve specific materials problems. By manipulating the composition and the structure, he said, scientists can control properties of the glass to make it work for a specific application.