Alfred University News

Alumnus John Mauro ’01, ’06 PhD delivers 2024 Scholes Lecture at Alfred University

Alfred University alumnus John Mauro ’01, ’06 PhD, delivered the Scholes Memorial Lecture on Thursday, discussing his journey from growing up in nearby Almond, NY, and attending Alfred University to becoming one of the preeminent researchers in the field of glass science.

In his lecture, “There and Back Again: A Journey in Glass,” Mauro talked about his career as a glass scientist and educator and how his time as a student at Alfred University prepared him for professional success.

“It is such a pleasure to be here today after so many years, when I sat where you are today,” he told the students, faculty, staff and other guests assembled in Holmes Auditorium on the Alfred University campus. “I have so many fond memories.”

Mauro earned bachelor’s degrees in glass engineering science and computer science in 2001 and a doctoral degree in glass science in 2006, all from Alfred University, and is Dorothy Pate Enright Professor and Associate Head for Graduate Education in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.

One of two Alfred University alumni inducted into the National Academy of Engineers, Mauro is a member of the National Academy of Inventors and the World Academy of Ceramics. He joined the faculty at Penn State in 2017 and is a world-recognized expert in fundamental and applied glass science, statistical mechanics, computational and condensed matter physics, thermodynamics, and the topology of disordered networks. He came to Penn State from Corning Incorporated, which he joined in 1999 and served in multiple roles, including senior research manager of the Glass Research Department, where he led a group of 15 scientists and technicians in the development of new glass and glass-ceramic products.

Mauro is the inventor or co-inventor of several new glass compositions for Corning, including Corning Gorilla® Glass products. He is a pioneer in the use of physics-based and machine learning models for the design of new glassy materials. Mauro is the inventor of new models for supercooled liquid and glass viscosity, glass structure and topology, relaxation behavior, and thermal and mechanical properties.

He talked about growing up in Almond and attending Alfred-Almond Central School, where his mother was a kindergarten teacher. His interest in glass began on family trips to Corning Museum of Glass, and it was at Alfred-Almond that he had his first exposure to Alfred University, specifically its glass science program. He referred to a video featuring Alexis Clare, renowned Alfred University professor of glass science, that he viewed in a high school science class. “That’s when I really became interested in glass,” he said.

Mauro noted several members of the Alfred University faculty who served as mentors during both his graduate and undergraduate studies: Arun Varshneya, emeritus professor of glass science, who was his adviser for both his B.S. and doctoral degree studies; Roger Loucks, professor of physics; Tom McDowell, computer science professor; and Paul Johnson, ceramic engineering professor.

He also talked about the impact the late Fiona Tolhurst, his English professor at Alfred, had on his career, particularly by instilling in him a passion for writing. Mauro is the author of over 360 peer-reviewed publications and serves as editor-in-chief of Journal of the American Ceramic Society. “So much of what she taught me has been so valuable to my career.”

Mauro was at Corning Inc. for 18 years before leaving for Penn State. “It’s been amazing,” he said of his tenure in State College. “There are some of most amazing scientists in any field.”

At Penn State, Mauro led efforts to research and develop LionGlassTM — a novel glass family that lowers the carbon footprint of glass manufacturing by ~50% while significantly improving mechanical performance — which earned him first place in the Penn State Tech Tournament (2023). “It’s been quite a ride for us,” he said of his time at Penn State.

Mauro gave a nod to one of his former students at Penn State, Collin Wilkinson, who is now a glass science professor at Alfred University.

“I’m so thankful for all my students,” he said. “Your newest glass science professor, Collin Wilkinson—he’s a real dynamo. He dreams big, always comes up with big ideas, and makes them happen.”

After the lecture, a luncheon was held in the Knight Club, Powell Campus Center, at which time Mauro and Elene Taniashvili, a sophomore glass science engineering major from Tbilsi, Georgia, were recognized.

Award winners from Scholes Lecture 2024

John Mauro ’01, ’06 PhD (second from right) received the Scholes Lecture Award and sophomore glass science engineering major Elene Taniashvili (second from left) the Scholes Scholar Award following the Scholes Memorial Lecture Thursday, April 4. They are shown with Gabrielle Gaustad ’04, dean of the Inamori School of Engineering (left) and Beth Ann Dobie (right) provost and chief operating office at Alfred University.

Taniashvili was named recipient of the Scholes Scholar Award for having the highest GPA among first-year ceramic engineering and materials science and engineering students. After her first year at Alfred, she had a perfect 4.0 GPA. For being named Scholes Scholar, Taniashvili was presented with a $250 award.

The Scholes Lecture Series was established in 1982 by alumni of Alfred University to honor the late Samuel R. Scholes, who in 1932 established the first glass science program in the United States at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He served as dean, associate dean, head of the Department of Glass Technology, and professor of glass science.