Groundbreaking Scholar Elsa Reichmanis to Join Faculty at Lehigh

Reichmanis, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, will serve as the Anderson Endowed Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Story by

Tim Hyland

Elsa Reichmanis
Elsa Reichmanis is joining Lehigh as the Carl R. Anderson Endowed Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. 

Elsa Reichmanis, an acclaimed polymer chemist and member of the National Academy of Engineering, will join Lehigh’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science as the Carl R. Anderson Endowed Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She will begin her tenure on Sept. 1, 2020.

Currently the Pete Silas Chaired Professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Reichmanis is a groundbreaking researcher and pioneer in the world of microlithography. She is the former president of the American Chemical Society and, before arriving at Georgia Tech, served as Director of the Materials Research Department at Bell Labs.

"I am delighted to welcome Professor Reichmanis to Lehigh," says Stephen P. DeWeerth, professor and dean of Lehigh's P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. "As her many accomplishments and awards clearly demonstrate, Dr. Reichmanis is an exceptional scholar and academic leader. We expect that she will bring this scholarship and leadership to the Lehigh faculty, expanding our research impact and catalyzing new areas of interdisciplinary collaboration. It is truly an honor for the Rossin College to have her join our ranks."

Reichmanis, whose work cuts across the fields of chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, optics and electronics, says she was drawn to Lehigh because of the opportunity to build on already existing interdisciplinary research initiatives, and to conceptualize and develop new ones.

“One of the things that attracted me to Lehigh was the clear strengths the university has in terms of interdisciplinary research,” Reichmanis says. “My research during my time at Bell was very interdisciplinary and very collaborative, and that kind of work is something that I truly enjoyhaving the opportunity to engage in collaborative programs where you are really interacting with different people in different fields. So I’m very excited about this opportunity.”

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Reichmanis emigrated along with her family to the United States as a child. The family settled in Syracuse, New York, and Reichmanis would eventually enroll at Syracuse University, where she would complete her chemistry degree in just three years. She then earned her Ph.D. in organic chemistry, also in three years, at age 22.

After working as a postdoctoral fellow at Syracuse, Reichmanis left higher education for a staff position at AT&T Bell Laboratories. There, she worked alongside a team that developed a series of innovations in the world of semiconductor technology, and in the process established herself as a leading mind in the world of optical lithography, the process by which patterns are defined on silicon wafers.

In optical lithography, visible or ultraviolet light is used to project patterns on the wafers, and those patterns define the circuit features that in turn make the chips work. The process is made possible by chemical substances known as photoresists, which capture the pattern design and allow it to be embedded atop the silicon wafer. Reichmanis is widely recognized as an innovator in the world of photoresists, and she and her team at Bell Labs have been credited with advancing the development of new materials that allowed for the creation of microchips capable of powering an array of 21st-century devices.

As a faculty member at Georgia Tech, she also oversees the Reichmanis Research Group, a team whose research interests include the chemistry, properties and applications of materials technologies for electronic and photonic applications, with particular focus on polymeric and nanostructured materials for advanced technologies.

At Lehigh, Reichmanis will have the opportunity to continue this work, while at the same time exploring new areas as well.

"We are thrilled to have Professor Elsa Reichmanis join our department as the next Carl R. Anderson Endowed Chair," says Mayuresh V. Kothare, the R.L. McCann Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Lehigh. "Elsa is an internationally recognized scholar, inventor, mentor and leader in the study of organic polymers and hybrid materials for use in energy and other related applications. The ChBE faculty is looking forward with great excitement to welcome her as a colleague."

In all, Reichmanis has authored five books, has published more than 200 papers and owns several patents. Elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1995, she has also been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the 1992 R&D 100 Award from Research and Development Magazine; the 1993 Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers; the 1996 ASM International Engineering Materials Achievement Award; the 2001 Perkin Medal, and more recently, the 2018 Margaret H. Rousseau Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement by a Woman Chemical Engineer from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1997, Fellow of the Materials Research Society in 2018 and served as president of the American Chemical Society in 2003.

Story by

Tim Hyland