How UC Davis Education Guided Pioneer of Materials Science and Engineering
Terry Lowe '78 receives 2023 Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal for outstanding career and commitment to UC Davis
On a wall in Terry Lowe’s home hangs a sign that reminds him daily of his personal principles.
Give freely, and
They’re principles that guide him as an educator throughout his career and began with the UC Davis education that shaped his life. This thoughtful approach to mentorship and his pioneering achievements in materials science and engineering led Lowe to receive a 2023 Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal.
An Interdisciplinary Choice
Lowe graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1978, a double major in materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering. He went on to receive his Master of Science degree and Ph.D., both in materials science and engineering, from Stanford in 1979 and 1983 respectively.
That early decision to pursue an interdisciplinary approach, though, went on to shape his career path that continues today as a research professor at Colorado School of Mines.
When Lowe was an undergraduate, materials science and engineering was not yet a separate department from mechanical engineering within the College of Engineering. It meant there were few barriers to pursuing a double major, even at a time when interdisciplinary education was less common.
"This choice was the foundation of my choosing multidisciplinary research and endeavors throughout the rest of my career,"Lowe said. "In addition, the opportunity to take broadening courses in art, music, history and viticulture was equally influential."
Of course, that choice was only made possible by an earlier one to switch from chemical engineering. Lowe’s father was a chemical engineer and his twin brother was also studying chemical engineering, on top of having extended family working in the petroleum industry.
Lowe chose to shift after his freshman year, which opened the door to exploring material behaviors and properties.
"I discovered that I enjoyed answering 'why' questions of scientific inquiry as much as applying engineering principles to engineering problem-solving," he said. "Science seeks to understand and explain. Engineering seeks to understand and apply technical knowledge and principles."
Thanks to his dual-discipline approach as an undergraduate, Lowe was later prompted to work at the intersection of applied mechanics and the mechanical behavior of materials. It was his UC Davis experience that showed him that significant innovations in science and engineering often occur at the intersections or “edges” of academic disciplines.
"I learned at UC Davis that to excel as an engineer requires high intensity and focus," Lowe said. "My UC Davis experience embodied a standard for productivity that I’ve continued throughout my career. Such high standards were essential to my evolution into all of my leadership roles."
A Materials Science and Engineering Pioneer
In addition to working as a lecturer, adjunct professor and visiting scholar at Stanford, Brown, Clemson and Loyola Marymount Universities to name a few, Lowe is a true pioneer in the field of materials science and engineering.
He was recognized as one of the Top 100 Materials Scientists of the 21st Century by Science Watch and is a visionary educator and innovator in nanostructured materials science, biomaterials and advanced manufacturing, having developed projects that were funded in excess of $50 million.
Lowe is credited with co-creating the emerging nanostructured metals industry, founded the Nanostructured Metals Manufacturing Testbed, and was nominated for the Nanotechnology International Prize.
He spent 30 years at U.S. Department of Energy National Science Laboratories in distinguished science leadership roles, spending time at both Sandia and Los Alamos.
Lowe is also the founder of Figure Eight LLC, a company designed to incubate and enable the launch of high-tech commercial enterprises.
An Impact Beyond Engineering
Like many other materials science and engineering alumni, Lowe remembers Distinguished Professor Emeritus Amiya Mukerjee with fondness.
"He inspired my transition from chemical engineering to materials engineering," Lowe recalled. "He was animated and engaging in his introductory materials science course, making learning about materials and the means to engineer their properties exciting."
It was the diversity of his education at UC Davis that Lowe remembers, and to that end, two of his favorite professors actually came from the art and history departments. Through artist and Professor Emeritus Wayne Thiebaud’s Introduction to Art class, Lowe learned to sense and appreciate subtle differences. Through Professor Stylianos Spyridakis’ Greek history lectures, he learned speaking techniques he later emulated and incorporated into his own lectures and technical presentations.
"I hold many precious memories of my time at UC Davis. Overall, UC Davis was the crucible that blended the experiences that have most shaped my life."
Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal (DEAM)
Outstanding alumni are selected as Distinguished Engineering Alumni Medal, or DEAM, recipients every other year. DEAM recipients are recognized for having a record of outstanding achievement in business, academia and/or public service, making substantial contributions to the UC Davis community, and having at least 10 years of professional experience.
The college's 2023 DEAM recipients will be recognized at an Alumni Celebration, which will take place at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center at UC Davis on Thursday, November 2.