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Thomas Webster installed as Art Zafiropoulo Chair in Engineering​

Left to right: Stephen Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Lisa Zafiropoulo; Arthur Zafiropoulo, E'61; Thomas Webster, who was formally installed as the Art Zafiropoulo Chair in Engineering; President Joseph E. Aoun; and Nadine Aubry, dean of the College of Engineering. Photo by Brooks Canaday/Northeastern University

Thomas Webster, professor and chair of Chemical Engineering was installed as Art Zafiropoulo Chair in Engineering​.

Source: News @ Northeastern

Thomas Web­ster, an inter­na­tion­ally renowned researcher who has pio­neered the use of nan­otech­nology to improve med­ical devices, was for­mally installed as the inau­gural Art Zafiropoulo Chair in Engi­neering on Friday afternoon.

Web­ster, a pro­fessor and chair of the Depart­ment of Chem­ical Engi­neering, was hon­ored at a cer­e­mony in the Raytheon Amphithe­ater attended by Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun and other uni­ver­sity leaders, fac­ulty, staff, stu­dents, family, and friends. He gave a lec­ture in which he dis­cussed his career devel­oping nano­ma­te­rials for a range of med­ical appli­ca­tions, his love for working on trans­la­tional research, and how his entre­pre­neurial endeavors have paved impor­tant paths toward advancing his work beyond the lab.

In his lec­ture, Web­ster com­mended North­eastern Uni­ver­sity for the value it has placed on taking cal­cu­lated risks, and he dis­cussed how he’s embraced this same mindset throughout his own pro­fes­sional career. Ten years ago he launched an open access journal—the Inter­na­tional Journal of Nanomed­i­cine—despite others in the field crit­i­cizing this approach as “paying to pub­lish.” Web­ster argued that open access in fact increases the work’s impact because more people would be able to read, debate, and build upon it.

Web­ster has also taken this approach to his research, citing sev­eral exam­ples of devel­oping nan­otech­nology solu­tions to improve health­care devices, many of which are being com­mer­cial­ized. His team has cre­ated injectable nano­ma­te­rials that pro­mote the growth and regen­er­a­tion of bones and car­ti­lage, advance­ments that are aimed at replacing metallic implants. His lab is also devel­oping nano­ma­te­rials aimed at fighting viruses and infec­tions, and others that target brain tissue affected by stroke.

Webster’s group is also focused on devel­oping nanosen­sors that can detect, respond to, and send back infor­ma­tion on ill­ness or infec­tion within the body. These kinds of sen­sors, he said, present a major oppor­tu­nity for the health­care field by shifting the focus toward pre­dic­tive med­i­cine rather than reac­tionary treatment.

“The best sensor in the world, in my opinion, is us,” Web­ster said. “It’s immune cells in our body that can sense when some­thing is there that shouldn’t be. We’ve got to move toward this if we want to advance healthcare.”

Thomas Web­ster, pro­fessor and chair of the Depart­ment of Chem­ical Engi­neering, delivers a lec­ture at an event where he was for­mally installed as the Art Zafiropoulo Chair in Engi­neering. Photo by Brooks Canaday/​Northeastern University

The endowed fac­ulty chair was estab­lished with a $2.5 mil­lion gift from Arthur W. Zafiropoulo, E’61, founder, CEO, and chairman of Ultra­tech, Inc., a Sil­icon Valley-​​based multi­na­tional com­pany that develops, man­u­fac­tures, and mar­kets pho­tolith­o­g­raphy and laser thermal pro­cessing. He is a visionary inno­vator and phil­an­thropist who is director emer­itus for Semi­con­ductor Equip­ment and Mate­rials Inter­na­tional, a global trade asso­ci­a­tion rep­re­senting the semi­con­ductor, flat-​​panel dis­play equip­ment and mate­rials industry. He is also founder and owner of the suc­cessful Fer­rari deal­er­ship of Sil­icon Valley, one of the largest in North America.

“Art’s gen­erosity and vision have allowed us to empower a top scholar in Pro­fessor Tom Web­ster. This demon­strates the pow­erful role that phil­an­thropy plays in advancing our mis­sion,” said Joseph E. Aoun, pres­i­dent of North­eastern. “This is more than an invest­ment in one out­standing scientist—Tom’s work will advance the field of nanomed­i­cine and change mil­lions of lives.”

Endowed chairs and pro­fes­sor­ships are among the highest recog­ni­tion that an insti­tu­tion of higher edu­ca­tion can bestow on its fac­ulty, and among the most pow­erful tools North­eastern has for recruiting and retaining top fac­ulty. Donors like Zafiropoulo who estab­lish an endowed chair create a lasting legacy that links their name to excel­lence in research and teaching in per­pe­tuity. Endowed chairs are reserved for dis­tin­guished scholars and teachers and pro­vide funds to the chair holder in sup­port of his or her teaching, research, and service.

“This is a very spe­cial day for the Col­lege of Engi­neering,” said Nadine Aubry, the college’s dean, praising Web­ster for his lead­er­ship in building the department’s national pro­file and attracting new, highly tal­ented fac­ulty mem­bers and stu­dents to the department.

In her remarks, Aubry noted Webster’s many impres­sive accom­plish­ments throughout his career. He has authored 400 peer-​​reviewed journal paper and nine text­books, holds numerous patents and has launched eight com­pa­nies, and is one of the most-​​cited researchers in the area of mate­rials sci­ence. What’s more, Web­ster is president-​​elect of the U.S. Society for Bio­ma­te­rials, is the founder and editor-​​in-​​chief of the Inter­na­tional Journal of Nanomed­i­cine, and is on the edi­to­rial board of 15 other journals.

Web­ster is also a fellow of the Amer­ican Insti­tute for Med­ical and Bio­log­ical Engi­neers, the Amer­ican Society for Nanomed­i­cine, the Bio­med­ical Engi­neering Society, and the Ernst Strung­mann Foundation.

“You’re doing tremen­dous work, and we’re glad you’re doing it at North­eastern,” said Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs.

For his part, Zafiropoulo con­grat­u­lated Web­ster on his “well-​​deserved” chair instal­la­tion, noting that his research is con­tributing to a crit­ical global need for better med­ical diagnostics.

“We should be able to diag­nose any kind of med­ical ail­ments easily, quickly, and very inex­pen­sively. I think the work Tom is doing is going to lead to that,” Zafiropoulo said.

Related Faculty: Thomas J. Webster

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering