Alexandra Navrotsky, 77, is currently a Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, and an Affiliated Faculty Member in the School for Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona, U.S.A. She is also the Director of the recently launched Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe (MotU), a collaborative research and education initiative at ASU. Professor Navrotsky was educated at the Bronx High School of Science and the University of Chicago (B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in physical chemistry). After postdoctoral work in Germany and at Penn State University, she joined the faculty in chemistry at Arizona State University, where she remained until her move to the Department of Geological and Geophysical Sciences at Princeton University in 1985. She chaired that department from 1988 to 1991 and was active in the Princeton Materials Institute. In 1997, she became an interdisciplinary professor of ceramic, earth, and environmental materials chemistry at the University of California at Davis and was appointed Edward Roessler Chair in Mathematical and Physical Sciences in 2001. She served as interim Dean of the University of California Davis College of Letters and Sciences Department of Mathematical and Physical Sciences from 2013 to 2017. She organized the NEAT (Nano and New Materials in Energy, the Environment, Agriculture, and Technology) research group in 2002 and directed the Peter A. Rock Thermochemistry Laboratory from 1997 until 2019, when she returned to Arizona State University.
Professor Navrotsky was drawn to the field of thermodynamics because of its "tremendously logical" nature. She originally entered the University of Chicago thinking she would become an organic chemist. However, after sitting in on a graduate-level physical organic chemistry course that discussed statistical mechanics and using isotope effects to study organic reactions, "the stuff seemed so logical that about three weeks into the ten-week course I registered for it, and then got an A," she says. When she joined Arizona State University as an assistant professor, the university had just started a major effort in solid state sciences, including pioneering efforts in electron microscopy and geochemistry. "We had a wonderful group of young people working with senior scientists who were deeply interested in solid state research," she recalls. "I really had no idea how helpful that first job was going to be in propelling me forward in ceramics, mineralogy, and so much more. It was just great."
Navrotsky's current research interests lie at the intersection of solid state chemistry, geochemistry and materials science, and have focused on the structure and stability of both natural and synthetic materials along with their dependence on temperature and pressure. She and her research group work to relate microscopic features of structure and bonding to macroscopic thermodynamic behavior in minerals, ceramics, and other complex materials. By developing reaction calorimetry as a foundational research tool, Navrotsky has advanced unique research and contributed to a broad range of applications. She has made major contributions to mineralogy, geochemistry, solid state chemistry and materials science in the fields of mineral thermodynamics, mantle mineralogy, deep earth geophysics and high pressure phase transitions, silicate melt and glass thermodynamics, order-disorder in spinels, framework silicates and other oxides, ceramic processing, oxide superconductors, nanophase oxides, porous materials, zeolites, nitrides, perovskites and the general problem of structure-energy-property systematics.
Navrotsky has published nearly 1000 scientific papers, and continues to collaborate with scientists and colleagues all over the world. She reminds us that "in science as in life, every day is a new adventure!"
Her honors include an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (1973), Mineralogical Society of America Award (1981), American Geophysical Union Fellow (1988), Vice-President, Mineralogical Society of America (1991-1992), President (1992-1993), and Geochemical Society Fellow (1997). She spent five years (1986-1991) as Editor, Physics and Chemistry of Minerals, and serves on numerous advisory committees and panels in both government and academia promoting collaborative research across disciplines and institutions. She was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1993. In 1995, she was awarded the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from Uppsala University in Sweden and she received the American Ceramic Society (ACerS) Ross Coffin Purdy Award in recognition of the most valuable contribution to ceramic technical literature. She was named an ACerS Fellow in 2001, the same year in which she received the Best Paper Award of the Nuclear and Environmental Technology Division. In 2002 she was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth Science. In 2004, she was elected a Fellow of The Mineralogical Society (Great Britain) and awarded the Urey Medal (the highest career honor of the European Association of Geochemistry). In 2005, she received the ACerS Spriggs Phase Equilibria Award. In 2006, she received the Harry H. Hess Medal of the American Geophysical Union. In October 2009, she received the Roebling Medal (the highest honor of the Mineralogical Society of America). In 2011, she became a member of the American Philosophical Society. In 2016 she received the Victor M. Goldschmidt Award from the Geochemical Society and the W. David Kingery Award from ACerS in recognition of her lifelong achievements in ceramic science. World Academy of Ceramics elected Professor Navrotsky to Science Professional Member in 2017. In 2020, the European Materials Research Society presented Professor Navrotsky with the Jan Czochralski Award for her achievements in the field of advanced material science. She was twice honored by ACerS with a Distinguished Lifetime Membership and a Best Paper award from the Journal of the American Ceramic Society for her paper "Thermochemical Investigation of Lithium Borate Glasses and Crystals." She was also ranked 25th in materials science in the PLOS BIOLOGY "Updated science-wide author database of standardized citation indicators," published in October. Recently, a newly discovered mineral K2Na10(UO2)3(SO4)9·2H2O was named "Navrotskyite" in her honor.
Professor Navrotsky has worked with industry partners to develop novel research instruments, such as the high temperature Calvet calorimeters, initially custom-built for her lab at UC Davis for use in oxide melt solution calorimetry. The apparatus was later named after her and commercialized as the Setaram AlexSYS calorimeter, which is currently installed in a number of laboratories (e.g. Notre Dame University, Washington State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Clemson University, NASA Glenn Research Center, University of California Davis, Arizona State University, and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology).
Her newest initiative, the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe (MotU), focuses on planetary materials, materials under extreme conditions (including high pressure and radiation fields), and the role of materials, especially silica, in prebiotic reactions on the early Earth. MotU unites cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy, planetary science and exploration, mineralogy and petrology, with materials science and engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology to address grand questions of the complex chemistries and evolution of planets and practical questions of new materials for applications under extreme conditions.
Stars produce the elements that form all materials. Planets, moons, and every object in the universe form through physical and chemical processing of this suite of elements, which makes the knowledge of materials essential to understand the universe. The diversity of planetary bodies in our solar system and the ubiquity of exoplanets now liberate us from narrow thinking focused only on Earth materials. We need to understand their formation, stability, catalytic activity, and rheology over a range of temperature, pressure, and compositions not yet imagined. Creating new materials, often far from equilibrium, with compositions unknown on Earth but possible elsewhere, requires fundamental understanding of structure, bonding, and function. Such new materials, in turn, may aid space exploration by providing better sensors and detectors, as well as stronger, lighter, and more robust materials for aerospace applications. Materials research under extreme conditions will enable us to design new systems for space exploration, travel, and settlement. MotU, as a unifying discipline, will attract and inspire scientists across all STEM fields as it synergistically applies materials research methods, and explores alien and extreme conditions and environments with the expectation of discovering new, useful materials and understanding the formation and evolution of planets.
MotU is organizing a Collaborative for the Study of Materials under Extreme Conditions (high and low temperature and pressure, radiation, corrosive environments) to bring together the unique experimental and intellectual capabilities at ASU and make them more accessible to scientists here and elsewhere.
ROUND TABLE DISCUSSIONS
A round table discussion open to everyone interested will be organized at a specific date and time during the symposium. It will be a platform for high level representatives of various industries, technologies, and academic disciplines to freely discuss and debate all topics of this symposium, and identify positive and efficient pathways towards sustainability in industrial practices, technologies, and research.
You are cordially invited to actively participate in this symposium by submitting and presenting a paper, or by attending the round table. We look forward to meeting you in Phuket, November 2021.