min read
A- A+
Department Head of Physics

Mauricio Terrones

By Sam Sholtis

Mauricio Terrones, Evan Pugh University Professor and Verne M. Willaman Professor of Physics, and professor of chemistry and of material science and engineering, has been named the new George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Head of the Department of Physics at Penn State, effective July 1. Terrones succeeds Nitin Samarth, who has served as head of the department since 2011.

“In addition to Mauricio's outstanding scholarly accomplishments and effective leadership, he cares deeply about the well-being and reputation of the department and its future,” said Tracy Langkilde, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science. “I am excited to work with Mauricio and the department on furthering our college’s mission of science education, research, and outreach and collectively achieving an even higher level of success.”

Through his research, Terrones has made considerable experimental and theoretical contributions to the field of nanoscience — the physico-chemical and biological manipulation of incredibly small structures less than 100 nanometers, or less than a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair. He studies and builds nanomaterials that exhibit novel phenomena and could potentially have industrial, biomedical and electronic applications, including carbon-based and low-dimensional materials like carbon nanotubes, graphene, and monolayers of transition metal dichalcogenides.

Terrones said that as department head his priorities would include the development of a synergistic strategic plan; improving the visibility of research, achievements and activities; continuing the promotion of stellar and strategic diverse hires and co-hires in areas that require strengthening at Penn State; the enrollment of outstanding diverse students; an improved excellence in teaching and learning at the graduate and undergraduate level; the establishment of mentoring programs for students, postdocs, faculty and staff that embody inclusion and team work; and the improvement of the working atmosphere that would naturally benefit diversity, equity and inclusion within the department.

“I am confident that my professional background in leading edge research, experience in management, and extended collaborative network with leading scientists will have a tangible impact toward developing a world leading and vibrant physics department,” said Terrones. “I will do my very best to move the department forward and upward. I would like to thank Dean Langkilde for all her generous support and commitment. She really cares about our department and wants us to move to the next level. I really look forward to working with her, the department and the college. I would also like to thank Nitin Samarth and the physics leadership team for all the hard work done over the past 12 years, and for moving the physics department forward.”

Terrones has co-authored over 700 papers in scientific journals, including Nature, Science, Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Materials, Physical Review Letters, Nano Letters, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Applied Physics Letters. His research articles have been cited more than 80,000 times worldwide, and he has been named a “Highly Cited Researcher” by Clarivate for the years 2017 through 2022. Terrones helped create Penn State’s Center for 2-Dimensional and Layered Materials and has been the center’s director since 2013. He also is director of the NSF-IUCRC Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings (ATOMIC) at Penn State and editor-in-chief of the highly-cited journal Carbon.

Terrones has been honored in the past with the Chair of Excellence from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and Banco Santander in 2018; the Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Physical Sciences from Penn State in 2016; the Somiya Award for International Collaboration in Materials Research from the International Union of Materials Research Societies in 2009; the Japan Carbon Award for Innovative Research from the Japan Carbon Society TANSO in 2008; the Scopus Prize from Elsevier in 2007; the Fernando Alba Medal from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 2007; The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Prize in Engineering in 2006; the Javed Husain Prize and the Albert Einstein Medal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2001; and the Mexican National Prize for Chemistry in 2000. He Is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK), the American Physical Society, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, and the Mexican Academy of Sciences.

Terrones was named Verne M. Willaman Professor of Physics at Penn State in 2019 and an Evan Pugh Professor, the highest honor that Penn State bestows on a faculty member, in 2022. Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in 2011, Terrones was a professor at the Universidad Carlos III in Spain, Distinguished Professor at Shinshu University in Japan and Professor at the Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (IPICYT) in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. He was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Max-Planck-Institut für Metallforschung in Germany in 1999, and a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Sussex from 1997 to 1999. Terrones obtained a doctoral degree in chemical physics at the University of Sussex under the supervision of Nobel Laureate Harold W. Kroto in 1997 and a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics with first class honors at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico in 1992.