Krystyn J. Van Vliet was recently named the Michael (1949) and Sonja Koerner Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. Professor Van Vliet’s interest in engineering first developed during her adolescence; she spent summers working on farms in New Jersey, helping with routine tasks like separating good potatoes from bad ones. But it was there that she witnessed farmers using and fixing incredibly complex harvesting machines and tackling tough biological questions to maximize the efficiency of their crops.
Professor Van Vliet has come a long way since those days as a potato sorter surrounded by inspiring engineering equipment—now she holds joint appointments at MIT in Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering. Her research focuses on the coupling between chemistry and mechanics within materials, and at material interfaces. Her group’s experimental characterization and computational modeling of chemomechanics phenomena has addressed diverse engineering challenges and classes of materials, from fracture-resistant ceramics for energy storage to stretchable polymers that isolate and grow stem cells.
Professor Van Vliet also serves as the Director of Manufacturing Innovation in MIT’s Innovation Initiative, with a focus on MIT’s participation in new Manufacturing USA Institutes. Manufacturing USA catalyzes public-private partnerships among industry, academia, and governments to accelerate technological innovation and workforce training for manufacturing careers. MIT now participates in seven of the ten existing Manufacturing USA Institutes, notably Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID), AIM Photonics, and Advanced Functional Fibers of America Institute (AFFOA). Professor Van Vliet holds an Sc.B. in Materials Engineering from Brown (1998) and a Ph.D. from our department (2002).
The new chair was created through a gift by MIT alumnus Michael Koerner, President of Canada Overseas Investments, Ltd. Mr. Koerner received his S.B. in 1949 from the Sloan School of Management, and for several decades he has been a leader in the MIT alumni community. Mr. Koerner has served on the MIT Corporation since 1985 and chaired the DMSE Visiting Committee from 1993 through 2002. He and his wife Sonja are long-time supporters of health, education, culture, and the arts. In addition to this extraordinary contribution to Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, the Koerners have also made a gift to fund the first-ever endowed professorship in music composition in MIT’s Department of Music and Theater.