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Illinois engineer receives Humboldt Research Award

Scott White
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Scott White

Illinois aerospace engineering professor Scott R. White has been given a Humboldt Research Award honoring his work in autonomous and self-healing materials.  

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1/16/2013 | Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor | 217-244-1073; eahlberg@illinois.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois aerospace engineering professor Scott R. White has been chosen to receive the prestigious Humboldt Research Award honoring a lifetime of research achievements.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany, annually honors up to 100 researchers elected by a multinational, multidisciplinary panel of scholars. According to the foundation, the recipients are “academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and beyond and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge academic achievements in future.”

White is a leading researcher in the field of autonomous materials – synthetic materials that respond and adapt to situations on their own. His research applies principles of biological systems, such as healing and vasculature, to materials such as plastics, electronic circuits and batteries. White is best known for designing materials embedded with microcapsules that rupture when cracked or damaged, filling the cracks and “healing” the plastic or circuit.

Humboldt award recipients are each awarded a prize of 60,000 Euros (nearly $80,000 at current exchange rates) and extended an invitation to pursue research of their choice with colleagues in Germany.

White will use his award to work with professor Peter Fratzl at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam-Golm, Germany. The two will study bio-inspired and biomimetic materials systems.

“Peter Fratzl is one of the world’s foremost authorities in biomaterials,” White said. “His labs offer unprecedented access to scientists, engineers and medical researchers to learn about regeneration and remodeling of materials systems, a topic that I am particularly interested in pursuing in my future research.”

White earned his doctorate in engineering mechanics at the Pennsylvania State University in 1990, joining the faculty at the U. of I. the same year. He also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. He has received widespread recognition for his work, including Scientific American magazine’s “SciAm 50” award in 2007. Popular Science chose his work as among the Top Ten Innovations in Science in 2001.

Editor's note: To contact Scott White, call 217-333-1077; email swhite@illinois.edu.

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