About MRS

Matt Copel, IBM TJ Watson Research Center

Matt Copel

Matt Copel is a research staff member at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, and a member of the MRS Board of Directors. He earned his PhD in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986, where he studied the structure of metal surfaces. He joined IBM as a post-doc, where he became interested in semiconductor thin film growth and epitaxy. Since then, he has made contributions to numerous areas where electronic materials are critical to industrial applications, using expertise in structural characterization to guide development. The principal technique for his work has been medium-energy ion scattering. Some of his research highlights include co-inventing the technique of surfactant mediated epitaxy and playing a leading role in high-k/metal gate research at IBM. More recently, he has worked on the materials underlying post-CMOS devices, with an emphasis on piezoelectronics. He is currently working on materials for quantum computing and neuromorphic devices.

Matt has been an active volunteer in scientific societies, organizing conferences, serving on committees, and acting as a liaison with industry. He chaired the IEEE Semiconductor Interface Specialists Conference (2007) and co-chaired the International Workshop on High Resolution Depth Profiling (2005). He has served on the MRS New Publications Products Subcommittee (2011-2014), APS Committee on Membership (2011-2013), and chaired the IBM Materials Research Community (2008). He has participated in numerous MRS task forces and is currently on the Penn State Materials Research Institute Industrial Advisory Board.

Matt has co-authored over 160 refereed publications, co-invented over 25 issued patents, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He received an IBM Outstanding Innovator Award for “New Mechanism for Silicon/Germanium Heteroepitaxy” (1991) and an IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award for “High-K/Metal Gate Technology” (2013).

Candidate's Statement

MRS relies on the efforts of volunteers, professional staff and board members. However, the most important contributions come from Society members who use our meetings and publications as forums to present their work, maintain their technical vitality and build successful careers. Without the enthusiastic participation of members, the Society would not thrive. The membership experience is exactly where we must focus our efforts if MRS is to continue to engage materials scientists in the future.

While on the Board, I served as Planning Committee chair. In this role, I organized a workshop for operating committee chairs, Board members and professional staff to explore our strategic directions. Some of the themes that emerged:

  • We must provide vibrant, high-quality programming in evolving formats.
  • We need to engage across multiple generations in our governance to bring fresh ideas.
  • We have an obligation to help our members advance their careers.

Because these themes came from both workshop participants and membership surveys, they have strongly resonated within our organization and led to action. For example, there is an increased willingness to experiment with new meeting formats in selected areas. Before the strategic planning exercise, we had already formed task forces to reinvigorate the Spring Meeting by examining both content and venue. After our workshop, the imperative need was even clearer. I volunteered for crucial task forces addressing these issues because they were an opportunity for MRS to focus on serving our members and fulfilling our strategic directions.

It is natural for many members to be primarily concerned with the Spring and Fall Meetings, since those are the most visible aspect of the MRS. Yet, there are other important parts of our Society that bear discussion. The past few years have brought a board-level commitment to publications quality. There is increased professional support for editorial staff,  journals have more frequent topical issues, and publications are more coordinated with meetings. As a result, there are improvements in the quantity of submissions as well as in impact factors. MRS needs to continue the effort so we can serve our members and ensure that the Society has a solid financial basis.

The past two years have been notable in accelerating the politicization of science. In this extraordinary environment, MRS has continued a path of nonpartisan lobbying for science. I have gone with MRS to Capitol Hill several times and helped educate staffers about what materials science is, and what it contributes to society. Simply helping our legislators understand what we offer is effective and works on both sides of the aisle. It is beneficial to science and our broader society.

I have very much enjoyed my time on the Board, in part because it led me to sample a wide variety of MRS activities, including ones I never considered before. I went to Women in MSE breakfasts, student/industry mixers, and awards ceremonies. I heard about church organs, 3d printed shoes, and scaffolding for tissue growth. There is a marvelous diversity in MRS, not only in the topics we study, but in who we are and where we come from. I have acquired a deep appreciation for our Society and its membership. It would be an honor to continue to serve the MRS as Vice President. The critical task in the next few years will be to execute the solid strategic vision we’ve developed. My experience as a board member and Planning Committee chair qualify me to help MRS carry out that vision.