Alexandra Navrotsky has long been invested in materials science as a researcher and professor, and with her most recent donation to Arizona State University, she is ensuring that the study will continue to be supported for years to come.
In 2019, Navrotsky rejoined ASU as a professor in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and as the director of the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe.
“In addition to the leadership and internationally recognized scholarship that Alex brings to ASU, she has made a personal $10 million investment which will ensure the long-term growth of materials science in this area at ASU,” said Neal Woodbury, vice president for research and chief science and technology officer for ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise. “This gift will support the Center for Materials of the Universe, named professors of materials research, early-career faculty encouragement awards and research in thermochemistry. The Materials of the Universe Center is an opportunity for ASU to significantly advance materials science research through a collaboration between the sciences and engineering.”
A chemist by training, Navrotsky’s first faculty position was at ASU in 1969.
“I wasn't actively job hunting at that point; I was thinking I'd stay in my postdoc for two years. But I came out for an interview. They liked what they saw in me; I liked what I saw in them,” Navrotsky said. “ASU was a wonderful place to be because it was really building up both in student numbers and in quality, and the solid-state sciences effort was really thriving. When I came, I didn't fully realize what a wonderful opportunity it would be. And of course we, the young faculty at the time, helped make it and defined the field of what was going on at ASU. So those days in the 1970s and early '80s were really, really exciting.”
In 1985, Navrotsky joined the Department of Geological and Geophysical Sciences at Princeton University and served as the chair from 1988 to 1991. Then in 1997, she moved to the University of California, Davis, and became an interdisciplinary professor of ceramic, earth and environmental materials chemistry. In 2001, she was appointed the Edward Roessler Chair in Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
Following a celebration of life for emeritus professor of chemistry and geology John Holloway in 2018, Navrotsky said she began to reflect on the exciting days of research she experienced at ASU in the ’70s.
“It occurred to me once I got home to say, ‘OK, you can't re-create the past, but what are the opportunities now?’ And that's when I started thinking about the Materials of the Universe Center opportunity,” she said.
In the first donation to her endowment, Navrotsky said she was focused on establishing the center and ensuring that those involved had access to funding. Then this year, as she was reviewing her retirement plans, she said she realized she had a larger sum than expected and made a plan to help ensure future research in a topic she cares deeply about, at a place she is forever connected to.
“ASU has a long and distinguished tradition in solid-state science. The new opportunities in Materials of the Universe related to solid-state science are something that I hope will continue at ASU for many years, and my endowment should help stabilize and energize that effort.”
The gift is structured to help impact graduate-level research and junior faculty support as well as direct funding for ASU’s thermodynamics research efforts.
“I'm convinced now, after being here since October of 2019, that I made the right choice to come back home. I hope that I have a number of good years to continue doing things, having fun and helping ASU.”