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NEWS | Feb. 24, 2015

Dr. John N. Russell Jr. Named Honorary Member of the American Vacuum Society

By Donna McKinney

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL's) Dr. John N. Russell, Jr., head of the Surface Chemistry Branch of the Chemistry Division, was honored at the annual American Vacuum Society (AVS) awards ceremony with the top Societal honor, AVS Honorary Membership. Russell was recognized for his outstanding scientific contributions and service to the Society.

The award was a complete surprise to Russell. He attended the ceremony to witness the AVS Fellow induction of Dr. Paul Sheehan, whom he nominated. As the awards ceremony drew to an end, all of the present honorary members were asked to stand and be recognized. Then it was announced that someone would receive the Honorary Membership Award. The award is given irregularly, so there is never a guarantee that anyone will be so recognized at the ceremony.

The Honorary Membership Award consists of a plaque and lifetime AVS membership without dues, and free registration for the annual AVS International Symposium and Exhibition for the rest of the honorary member's life.

Dr. Richard Colton, former superintendent of NRL's Chemistry Division, nominated Russell for the award. Until it was revealed at the awards ceremony, only the awards committee, the AVS board of directors, a few AVS staff, and Dr. Barry Spargo, acting superintendent of NRL's Chemistry Division, knew about the award, that is until he conscripted Dr. Kathy Wahl, head of the Molecular Interfaces and Tribology Section, and Russell's wife, Kathleen Russell, to ensure Russell attended the AVS awards ceremony.

It is AVS custom to announce a new honorary member through a slow reveal introduction. Using photographs from the awardee's childhood to the present, the details about the life and accomplishments of the awardee are presented to the audience. Russell said, Once I saw the first childhood picture, I knew they were honoring me. I had to quickly think about what I would say when they called me to the stage. But, I was in such a daze that I was uncharacteristically without words. When I returned to my seat, my wife was sitting in my chair. I did not know she was at the ceremony. She deserves the recognition as much as me. I also am very fortunate that NRL has been very supportive of my endeavors on behalf of the greater scientific community.

A member society of the American Institute of Physics, the American Vacuum Society is an interdisciplinary scientific professional society that fosters an international community of scientists, engineers, and instrument manufacturers, who strive to promote research and communicate knowledge in the important areas of surface, interface, vacuum, and thin film science/technology for the advancement of humankind.

As Head of NRL's Surface Chemistry Branch, Russell directs a highly interdisciplinary research program in surface chemistry and physics in support of current and future Navy technologies. The major research topics of the branch encompass a broad scope of fundamental to applied surface problems. They range from 3-D nanoarchitectural materials for energy storage, to lubrication and low-wear coatings, to surface (bio)adhesion, to chemical vapor deposition of electronic materials, to nanomanufacturing of devices and chemical/biological sensors. Russell's research at NRL initially focused on identifying and measuring fundamental surface reaction processes important for the chemical vapor deposition of wide band-gap electronic materials such as diamond and aluminum nitride, and then the surface functionalization of hybrid organic/semiconductor materials for sensor and electronic devices. Presently he and his collaborators are examining the biodegradation chemistry of polymer coatings and surfaces.

Russell earned a bachelor's degree (cum laude) in Chemistry in 1981 from Dickinson College, and his doctorate in Physical Chemistry in 1987 from the University of Pittsburgh. After a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Corporate Research Laboratory of Exxon Research and Engineering Company, he joined the NRL research staff in 1989. In 1999 he became the Head of the Functional Materials Section and since 2005 he has been the Head of the Surface Chemistry Branch. Russell has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific research papers, which have been cited more than 3,300 times. He holds one U.S. patent. Russell has given numerous invited and plenary presentations about his research at universities, and international conferences. In 2013 he began a part-time detail at the Chemical and Biological Defense Department of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency where he is engaged in developing surface science programs within the chemical defense research portfolio.

Russell has served in numerous leadership roles in the American Vacuum Society, which have included President (2008), member of the Board of Directors (2003-2005; 2007-2009), AVS Symposium and Exhibition Chair (2007), AVS Surface Science Division Chair (2006), and AVS Awards Trustee (2011-13, Chair 2013). He has significantly shaped and influenced the operations of the AVS. As AVS President he led a reorganization of the Society's governing structure, which was codified in changes to the Constitution and By-Laws of the Society. He also was instrumental in many changes to the policy and procedures of the Society. During his Presidency, the Society moved from rented to owned office space in lower Manhattan. He engaged in a review of the Society's research journals, which resulted in new policies for editor reviews, journal operations, and editorial directions. He also instituted a chair succession plan for the International Symposium, which still is the practice. As Awards Committee Chair, he completely revamped the awards selection process, even redesigning the physical awards that are presented to awardees. As Professor Joseph Greene, University of Illinois and Secretary of the AVS Board of Directors noted after the ceremony, There are very few things that the AVS does today that were not initiated by John Russell.

Russell also has held leadership positions in the American Chemical Society (ACS), including member and Chair of the ACS Joint-Board Council Committee on Publications (2005-13; Chair 2008-10), member of the ACS Colloid and Surface Chemistry Division Executive Committee (2000-16), and Chair/member of several special ACS taskforces and committees. Russell has been an elected representative to the ACS Council, the legislative body of the American Chemical Society (2004-09; 2011-13), and currently serves as an Alternate Councilor (2014-16). He also was a member of the editorial boards of the Encyclopedia of Colloid and Surface Chemistry (2004-present), and Chemical and Engineering News (2008-13; Chair 2008-10).

He received the NRL Chemistry Division Young Investigator Award (1992), and the NRL Berman Research Publication Award (1997). In 2008 he was inducted into the Berwick (PA) Area High School Academic Hall of Fame. In honor of his research accomplishments and scientific leadership, Russell has been elected a Fellow of both the American Vacuum Society (2006) and the American Chemical Society (2010).

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