• Matt_s Swirls

Christopher Ober

Professor of Materials Science & Engineering - Cornell University

I joined Cornell University in the summer of 1986, four years after graduating from UMASS in PSE and having spent those years working in industry at the Xerox Research Center of Canada. (I am originally from Canada). Today I am a professor in Materials Science and Engineering at Cornell where I have served as department chair, Associate Dean and as interim Dean.

In selecting graduate schools, I was drawn to UMASS Amherst. As an undergraduate in chemistry I had taken the co-op path at the University of Waterloo, the school with the biggest co-operative education program in North America. Studying and working in alternate semesters, I was employed in government, academic and industry labs. There I was introduced to polymer research and fell in love with it. When I asked people where I could study polymers they all told me UMASS was one of the very best schools. After a visit, I was convinced it was the university and the department I wanted to attend and was fortunate enough to be accepted. I joined the research group of Prof. Robert Lenz and studied the then new field of liquid crystalline polymers. As part of my studies I spent a year in Europe in the lab of Prof. Emo Chiellini investigating these new materials.

After graduation I joined Xerox and, while there, discovered I wanted to create fundamentally new polymers and study their roles across many advanced technology areas. Xerox was a wonderful company, but it was focused on printing and I was interested in pursuing unrelated areas of research. So after 4 great years, I looked for faculty positions. I am really happy I made the change, because I can now work in many science and technology areas with incredibly talented students and colleagues.

At UMASS, I had the chance to work with an international group of students and post-docs on strongly collaborative research. In addition we had visits by the leading scientists in polymer science and made lifelong friendships with many people who became the leaders in polymer research. The extensive collaborations between research groups were unusual at the time and have become the hallmark of top research programs in industry and in academia. The international character of research I experienced at UMASS has also become an essential aspect of ourstanding research activities. I can look back now and realize that PSE pioneered many of the aspects of what we consider leading edge, collaborative globally focused graduate studies.