Gary Messing, distinguished professor of ceramic science and engineering, has been sharing research advancements with his European colleagues for decades ,so being named one of the eight inaugural honorary fellows of the European Ceramics Society (ECerS) was a special accomplishment for the decorated scientist.
"It means a lot to me because I've always advocated on behalf of involvement with the international community, and to be recognized by my European colleagues is very special," Messing said. v
Messing was selected to join the inaugural group and recently received the award during a conference held in Budapest, Hungary. According to ECerS, fellows have made outstanding contributions to both ceramics and to sharing knowledge within the society.
Messing's research group is currently focused on developing processes for producing optically transparent ceramics, high-performance textured piezoelectrics and structural ceramics. The strategy is to control sintering and grain-growth processes. To accomplish this, Messing is involved in the entire process, from synthesizing powders to forming ceramics to developing new ways to densify -- sinter -- them to obtain the requisite microstructure and properties. v
"We spend a lot of time trying to understand the relationship between the powder characteristics and how to make better powders that satisfy the need for a particular process," Messing said.
For example, Messing uses these techniques to create ceramics that are transparent like glass but have superior strength and other tailored properties by removing pores to create a material that is nearly 100 percent dense.
Messing, who joined Penn State in 1980, said his field remains exciting because society is always looking for newer, higher-performing materials. Materials that scientists worked on 30 years ago, such as the incandescent light bulb, are becoming obsolete because of new material innovations.
"Materials science is so uniquely poised as a field of discovery because we are continually being pushed to replace existing materials with even higher performing ones," Messing said. "This theme continually happens in our discipline. We continue to discover and invent new materials because the world is always demanding higher and higher performing products. There are a lot of new materials to be discovered because we have the entire Periodic Table to work with."
Messing is a Distinguished Life Member and Fellow of the American Ceramic Society (ACerS), Fellow of the Materials Research Society, and Academician of the World Academy of Ceramics of which he is now president. Other accomplishments include receiving the W.D. Kingery Award; Robert Sosman, Edward Orton and John Jeppson awards of ACerS; serving as President of the American Ceramic Society; and receiving the Richard Brook Award of ECerS. Messing was founding director of the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center on Particulate Materials in 1991 and served as director of the Materials Research Laboratory in 1997 until being appointed Head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2001, a position he held until 2015.
Accolades are nice, Messing said, but he most enjoys watching his students succeed.
"To see them in a professional capacity is the biggest enjoyment there is, because you know you were part of helping them evolve to become a person who is an expert in their field and also a great communicator," Messing said. "It's not just the research that's important. It's helping them learn how to communicate through writing and dialogue. My biggest thrill is seeing my students succeed at whatever they decide to pursue."
Messing earned his bachelor's degree in ceramic engineering from Alfred University and his doctorate from the University of Florida.