As a dean and VP of research, Osborn sets an interdisciplinary path

Osborn’s leadership impacts research

While he had a significant impact as a researcher, Elburt Osborn also made his mark at Penn State in research leadership, promoting an interdisciplinary approach.

Osborn joined Penn State in 1946 as a professor of geochemistry and was the first in the United States to hold this title. He initiated a program in high-temperature experimental geochemistry bearing on phase relations among oxides, applicable both to the origin of igneous rocks and to ceramics. Osborn was recruited to Penn State by Edward Steidle, dean of the College of Mineral Industries (later the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences), to become chair of the Department of Earth Sciences.

In 1950, Osborn secured for Penn State the first grant offered by the U.S. Office of

Naval Research for the study of igneous petrology. In 1953, he was named Dean of the College of Mineral Industries and in 1959 was promoted to vice president of research for the University. In this role, he embraced interdisciplinary research, including introducing the first interdisciplinary curriculum in solid state technology in 1960, and opened the Interdisciplinary Materials Research Laboratory in 1962. In 1968, Osborn was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for advances in ceramics, slag, mineral, and steel technologies.

After his retirement from Penn State in 1970, Osborn was named director of the U.S. Bureau of Mines where he helped to establish the Pennsylvania Mining and Mineral Resources Research Institute.