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Kathy Lu, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering (MME), recently began her term as president-elect of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society. Lu, who arrived at UAB in August as the inaugural MME chair, ascended to the leadership role on July 1. Her three-year term will include one year each as president-elect, president, and immediate past-president.

“This is an enormous honor for Kathy to lead such a prestigious organization,” said School of Engineering Dean Jeff Holmes, M.D., Ph.D. “It speaks volumes about her stature in the scientific community and her leadership abilities. I find it particularly appropriate that Sigma Xi was founded in part to encourage cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering, a mission that resonates with the wonderful collaborative spirit here at UAB.”

Founded in 1886 at Cornell University, Sigma Xi now has approximately 60,000 members in more than 500 chapters around the world. More than 200 Sigma Xi members have been awarded the Nobel Prize, including Albert Einstein (1921), Francis Crick (1962), and Al Gore (2007). The organization seeks “to honor scientific accomplishments, to encourage and enhance the worldwide appreciation and support of original investigation in science and technology, and to foster worldwide a creative and dynamic interaction among science, technology and society.”

Lu earned her bachelor’s degree in ceramics from Tianjin University and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from Ohio State University. Her research interests are in polymer derived ceramics and composites, materials degradation in harsh environments, data-driven materials processing and characterization, and materials fundamental studies. She began her career working at Penn State University and then at Energizer Battery Company before moving to Virginia Tech in 2004. There, she worked in a variety of roles, most recently as the lead of the College of Engineering’s Artificial Intelligence-Guided Materials Thrust. She was also the co-lead of the campus-wide Materials Strategic Growth Area.

Lu says her goals for leading Sigma Xi are to strengthen the organization’s “effectiveness in promoting science, ethics, policy, and diversity.”