Alfred University News

Alfred University alumnus, professor receive ACerS mentor-student award

An Alfred University alumnus and the professor who supervised his master’s degree thesis have been chosen to receive an American Ceramic Society (ACerS) award that recognizes mentorship.

Brian Topper, who earned a master’s degree in materials science and engineering in December 2020, and Doris Möncke, associate professor of glass science in Alfred University’s Inamori School of Engineering, will receive the Varshneya-Mauro-Jain Guru-Chela Travel Fund Award during the ACerS Glass and Optical Materials Division (GOMD) meeting in New Orleans, LA, June 4-8.

The award “recognizes the special bond of knowledge, trust, and growth between a teacher (“Guru“) and a student (“Chela“), benefiting both,” according to the ACerS website. The award is named in part for Arun Varshneya, emeritus professor of glass science at Alfred University, and Alfred University alumnus John Mauro ’01 (glass science engineering, computer science), ’06 (PhD, glass science engineering), who considered Varshneya a mentor.

The award comes with a $1,000 grant, a certificate, and complimentary registration to the GOMD meeting. Topper and Möncke will be honored during the GOMD Banquet on June 6.

Möncke was Topper’s supervisor for his master’s thesis, on the structure of lithium and strontium borate glasses modified with yttrium and rare-earth cations investigated by vibrational spectroscopy. The thesis, which Topper successfully defended in November 2020, earned him the prestigious Oldfield Award. Presented annually by the Society of Glass Technology, the Oldfield Award honors excellence in students’ undergraduate project theses and taught masters theses. Topper was presented with the overall first prize in 2021.

Topper is working on his Ph.D. in optical science and engineering at the University of New Mexico, where he serves as a graduate research assistant. His current research, with Arash Mafi, who recently assumed the position of Executive Dean of Arts & Sciences at the University of Kansas, is focused on laser cooling ytterbium doped silica. He will defend his doctoral thesis this summer.

Topper has collaborated with Möncke to publish 10 papers and book chapters, some during his time as a master’s student and some over the last three years while he studied for his PhD. “We applied for this Mentor-Student award in the hope to recognize an unusual mentorship outside the typical official, degree seeking path, honoring collaboration and mentoring over different institutions,” Möncke said. Both are still working on various joined projects, most recently on rare earth ion doped glass, and plan to continue their collaboration in the future.