Brown University School of Engineering

Clifton to Receive Sigma Xi Monie A. Ferst Award

May 9, 2013
Professor Rod Clifton

Rush C. Hawkins University Professor Emeritus and Professor (Research) Rod Clifton will receive the 2013 Sigma Xi Monie A. Ferst Award

Rod Clifton, Rush C. Hawkins University Professor Emeritus and Professor (Research) at the School of Engineering at Brown University, has been selected as the winner of the 2013 Sigma Xi Monie A. Ferst Award. The award is given annually to an educator in engineering or science who has made “notable contributions to the motivations and encouragement of research through education.” Its purpose is to “recognize significant contributions to scientific research by an educator in engineering or science.”

The award is presented annually to an educator who has inspired his or her former students and colleagues to significant scientific achievements. Clifton will receive a medal, a monetary award, and a day-long symposium held at Georgia Tech in his honor this fall with several of his former students making presentations at the symposium.

Clifton has been a member of Brown’s engineering faculty since 1965 and served three separate terms as the dean of engineering from 1974 to 1979, 1998 to 2003, and most recently as interim dean from 2008 – 2011. Under his guidance, the School of Engineering was established in July of 2010.

Described by a former graduate student as “a towering giant in the field of experimental solid mechanics,” Clifton is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (1989) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2005), and a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1999). In 2000, he was awarded the latter society’s top award in applied mechanics, the Timoshenko Medal.

Clifton’s primary research is on the shearing resistance of materials at high rates of deformation, such as those that occur during high-speed impact. He introduced, with his graduate students, an experimental tool that revolutionized the field by allowing measurements at the highest speeds and temperatures. The innovation contributed to the study of materials such as metals, ceramics, and fluids, and to a better understanding of high-speed machining, armor penetration, and other processes. A computational method he developed is well known in the gas and oil industry. Currently he is working on the measurement of the viscoelastic properties of soft biological tissues at high frequency, such as the mechanical properties of vocal folds at phonation frequencies.

A native of Nebraska, Clifton received his B.S. in 1959 from the University of Nebraska and his M.S. (1961) and Ph.D. (1964) from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, all in civil engineering. He has served as a visiting professor at Stanford University and a visiting scientist at MIT. From 1992 through 1997 he was a member of the board of governors of the NSF’s Institute for Mechanics and Materials.