A Distinguished Honor
Seth Marder Honored
with Class of 1934
Distinguished Professor Award
By Victor Rogers APRIL 2, 2018
Seth Marder is on faculty development leave at various institutes across Europe, taking a break from his daily routine and attempting to allow himself time to think deeply about research.
“In most of the places that I’m visiting, I have collaborations,” he said. “This faculty development leave allows me to have quality time with the people with whom I’m collaborating or developing new collaborations with around the world, which is very intellectually stimulating.”
He’ll return to campus for the Faculty Staff Honors Luncheon on April 11, where he will receive Georgia Tech’s highest award given to a faculty member: the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award.
The award recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching, research, and service. Instituted in 1984 by the Class of 1934 in observance of its 50th reunion. The award is presented to a professor who has made significant long-term contributions — contributions that have brought widespread recognition to the professor, to his or her school, and to the Institute.
“The award means a lot to me because Georgia Tech is near and dear to my heart,” said Marder, Regents Professor and Georgia Power Chair of Energy Efficiency in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Materials Science and Engineering (courtesy). “I care a lot about the various aspects of my job that transcend the standard research and teaching aspects. I think this award is a reflection of the fact that the Institute values a faculty member’s contributions beyond teaching and research. It’s very special to have that kind of recognition.”
Marder is the third chemistry professor to receive the Distinguished Professor Award in recent years; Gary Schuster was the recipient last year, and Charles Liotta was honored a few years ago.
“The School of Chemistry and Biochemistry is a special place,” Marder said. “There are a lot of people in the school who are really dedicated to working to make Georgia Tech a better place. They’re willing to invest the time to do so.”
The Right Environment for Research
Marder grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was an educator in the New York City School system. His parents valued education and encouraged him to question authority and conventional wisdom.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from MIT, a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, and completing postdoctoral studies at Oxford University and Caltech, he worked at Caltech and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for several years. He was a professor at the University of Arizona for five years before joining the Georgia Tech faculty in 2003. He came to Tech as part of a team, with three other faculty members.
“One of the things that was so attractive about Georgia Tech was that the place was on the move,” Marder said. “And, I felt that people who have the desire to work to build a better place really could have the opportunity to do so in the environment that Georgia Tech fosters. Fifteen years later that still proves to be true.”
Marder’s research pertains to organic materials — essentially plastic-like materials — for photonics and electronics. Organic materials for photonics have applications in areas such as 3-D microfabrication (where Marder’s contributions with Professor Joseph Perry led to a successful spinoff company) and very high-speed data processing and communication. Materials for organic electronics have found application most significantly in organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays, which are now ubiquitous in cellphones, but also as photovoltaic materials and as components of detectors, sensors, and electrodes.
Marder is part of an interdisciplinary team that tries to understand from first principles how to design and synthesize materials that enable these applications. He attributes his success to working closely with many researchers throughout the globe — most notably a team at Georgia Tech with whom he has worked on average over 25 years. The team includes Joseph Perry, Jean-Luc Bredas, Bernard Kippelen, and John Reynolds. Marder’s work has resulted in over 475 papers that have been cited more than 38,000 times, and he is an inventor on 39 issued patents, many of which were licensed.
“I think within our team there is a sense that there is something bigger than what we each individually do in our research group that’s important,” Marder said. “We’re also very grateful to be at an institution where the desire that we have to contribute to the institution can be realized. That’s one of the things that I find extraordinarily attractive about being at Georgia Tech.”
Marder in his chemistry lab in 2005 with Aaron Finke, Tehetena Mesganaw, and Amanda Cooper.