Louis A. Girifalco

Born: July 3, 1928 | New York City, NY, US

Louis A. Girifalco studied applied science at the University of Cincinnati, and did his PhD research on the adhesion of ice to surfaces. The surface science thesis research naturally evolved into solid state physics when Girifalco began work for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which eventually became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. During his career Girifalco met Robert Maddin, which ultimately led an offer of a faculty position for Girifalco at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, Girifalco worked in the metallurgical engineering department and reflected upon the creation of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LSRM), as well as the funding process within LRSM. Fundamentally an interdisciplinary research institute, Girifalco spent time as director of LRSM and discussed his views on the evolution of the academic science research system and on the Nano/Bio Interface Center and other current interdisciplinary research institutes.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0635
No. of pages: 35
Minutes: 69

Interview Sessions

Hyungsub Choi
10 June 2008
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Louis Girifalco begins the interview by describing his parents' support of his decision to study chemistry; he also discusses his undergraduate and graduate education. Studying applied science at the University of Cincinnati, Girifalco did his PhD research on the adhesion of ice to surfaces. The surface science thesis research naturally evolved into solid state physics when Girifalco began work for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which eventually became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. During his career Girifalco met Robert Maddin, which ultimately led an offer of a faculty position for Girifalco at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, Girifalco worked in the metallurgical engineering department and reflected upon the creation of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LSRM), as well as the funding process within LRSM. Fundamentally an interdisciplinary research institute, Girifalco spent time as director of LRSM and discussed his views on the evolution of the academic science research system and on the Nano/Bio Interface Center and other current interdisciplinary research institutes.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1950 Rutgers University BS Chemistry
1952 University of Cincinnati MS Applied Science
1954 University of Cincinnati PhD Applied Science

Professional Experience

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.

1954 to 1955
Research Chemist

Lewis Research Center

1955 to 1959
Solid State Physicist, Solid State Physics Section
1959 to 1961
Head, Solid State Physics Section

University of Pennsylvania

1961 to 1965
Associate Professor of Metallurgical Engineering
1965 to 1982
Professor of Metallurgy and Materials Science
1967 to 1969
Director, Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter
1972 to 1974
Chair, Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science
1974 to 1979
Associate Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science
1979 to 1981
Vice Provost for Research
1981 to 1982
Acting Provost
1982
University Professor of Materials Science

Honors

Year(s) Award
1996

D Sc (Honoris Causa) Hahnemann University

Table of Contents

Education
1

New York City. Rutgers University. University of Cincinnati. Graduate research. Solid state physics at NASA. Introduction to Robert Maddin. Position offer by Maddin at the University of Pennsylvania.

Career at University of Pennsylvania
8

State of metallurgical engineering department. Creation of LRSM. Funding process within LRSM. Inter-departmental collaboration. John Hobstetter. Experience as director of LRSM.

Concluding Thoughts
21

Reflection on the evolution of the academic science research system. Thoughts on NBIC and other current interdisciplinary research institutes.

Index
27

Collaboration on Dutch literature readers. Position as visiting Fulbright professor in Japan. Collaboration on manuals for learning technical Japanese.

About the Interviewer

Hyungsub Choi

Hyungsub Choi is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Seoul National University and was manager of the emerging technologies program at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, directing the Robert W. Gore Materials Innovation project. His training is in the history of science and technology, with specialties in recent developments in the fields of semiconductors, materials science, and nanotechnology. He has received degrees from Seoul National University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Johns Hopkins University. He was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Choi’s works have appeared in leading professional journals, such as Technology and Culture and Social Studies of Science.  Currently, he is preparing a book examining the history of the semiconductor industry in the United States and Japan.