Richard LeSar is no stranger to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering or to the role as department chair. His past experience opened the door to a short-term opportunity to lead the department as interim chair until the next full-time chair is hired. The former chair, Kristen Constant, resigned to become the interim vice president and chief information officer for the university. For this reason, LeSar has quickly brushed off the dust on his department chair skills.
LeSar has been a full professor in the materials science and engineering department for eleven years. From 2006-2012, he held the title of department chair. Before coming to Iowa State, LeSar was a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico for 25 years. In 1975, he earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Michigan, and in 1977 and 1981, respectively, he earned an A.M. in physics and a Ph.D. in chemical physics from Harvard University.
LeSar is an active professional in research and academics. In 2014, he became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). He received the MSE Excellence in Teaching Award in 2012 and was the Lynn Gleason Professor of Interdisciplinary Engineering from 2011-2016.
LeSar has been an integral member of the MSE faculty and has led the department and college in a variety of research areas. His work centers on the use of computational modeling to study materials.
He said, “I have two main efforts on materials: one on studying the deformation of polycrystalline materials by modeling the defects that enable that deformation, called dislocations, and the other on predicting the distributions and orientation of grains of materials created by additive manufacturing. Along with a colleague in mechanical engineering, Professor Mark Bryden, I am also working on new ways to create simulations that link phenomena across the scales of length and time that govern materials behavior.”
With eleven years of experience and dedication to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, LeSar has been given the opportunity to reflect on the nature of the department.
“The department has many highlights, from great faculty and staff to excellent students to state-of-the-art research. Looking towards the future, I think we have done an excellent job in hiring new faculty over the past few years. We have expanded our research portfolio considerably, with new efforts in biomaterials, nano materials, and soft matter. Our work on structural and magnetic materials has also undergone a change in capabilities with the addition of new faculty. I have very high expectations for the department’s future,” said LeSar.
As he leads MSE, he has a vision for where he hopes to guide the department while he is interim chair.
He said, “The department cannot stand still, but must keep moving forward. Thus, I plan to be very active. For example, Professor Constant started a number of initiatives for the department, including, for example, a complete relook at the undergraduate curriculum. So as not to lose momentum, I will fully support the continuation of those efforts. My goal is simple, which is to leave the best possible department for the new chair.”
When you cannot find LeSar in his office, classroom, laboratory, or in a meeting, he is probably traveling to the mountains and high desert in New Mexico, which he describes as the place where his heart still lies.
As the search for the next chair begins, LeSar will continue to passionately and genuinely guide the department towards a positive future of innovation, productivity, and efficiency.