Ben Derby earns Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement

Derby was selected for his outstanding research, leadership and academic credentials.
Ben Derby earns Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement

MSE is proud to announce that Ph.D. candidate Ben Derby recently received the College's Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement. The honor is presented annually to the outstanding graduate student in each engineering degree program. Criteria considered by the department awards committee include a student’s active participation in research, leadership and academic performance (GPA).

The focus of Ben’s experimental research is on understanding the evolution of phase-separated morphologies in co-sputtered immiscible thin films (such as Cu-Mo) as a result of varying substrate temperature and deposition rate.

"Ben’s research is characterized by originality, independence, rigor, and depth of understanding and scholarship," said Derby's graduate advisor, Amit Misra.

In his four years as a graduate student, Derby has nine articles (five as 1st author) from his Ph.D. work published or accepted in prestigious journals. As an example of the impact of his research, Derby was awarded a DOE SCGSR Fellowship to pursue ion irradiation studies on the novel hierarchical structures that he discovered to explore the potential of these morphologies in mitigating helium embrittlement in nuclear power reactor applications. He spent six months at CINT (LANL) for this research and the work resulted in two publications. He has also received a best poster prize (Engineering Graduate Symposium, U-M), gold prize from Michigan Materials Research Symposium (November 2019), and research and travel grants to conduct research at DOE national user facilities.

In addition, in 2018-19, Derby served as president of the department’s Graduate Student Council (GSC) through which he implemented several successful new initiatives, including a peer mentorship program, an alumni professional development workshop, outreach to local schools, and social events with the goal of enhancing diversity and participation from underrepresented groups in materials engineering,

"Overall, Ben is a world-class researcher and leader who has a bright future ahead in materials research," Misra remarked. 

"I am truly humbled to be receiving the Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement," said Derby, who said he plans to join a national lab this spring as a postdoc before pursuing fundamental research in academia or a national lab. "I stand on the shoulders of giants when I accept this prize, and I am truly grateful for all in my University of Michigan family who have encouraged me, as they are the real stars of this story."

Congratulations, Ben!