In Memoriam: Robert C. Cammarata

Robert CammarataRobert “Bob” Cammarata, professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, an insightful scientist, a talented teacher, a visionary entrepreneur, a mentor to students and colleagues, and a leader in the Johns Hopkins community, died on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.

Bob joined the Whiting School faculty in 1987 after completing a doctorate in applied physics at Harvard and a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT. At WSE, Bob quickly established a reputation as a visionary researcher and a talented educator and took on leadership roles both within WSE and in the university at large. His contributions to both helped shape many of our strengths and successes today.

On the academic front, Bob served as a member of the Homewood Academic Council from 2006 to 2011 and he helped shape the Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s current focus and curriculum. While serving as department chair from 2003 until 2008, he oversaw the development of the department’s nanotechnology and biomaterials concentrations. Bob also was a skilled educator and, in 2010, he was recognized with the McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising for his ability to engage minds, elevate spirits, and encourage his students’ best efforts.

Bob oversaw a vibrant research program at WSE, where he was an integral member of the former Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and, more recently, was a key researcher in HEMI.  Over the years, Bob received significant recognition for his studies on the fundamental thermodynamics and mechanics of thin films, the foundational materials science that underlies technologies such as computer chips and optical coatings. He was elected as a Fellow of the Materials Research Society in 2011 and the American Physical Society in 2012 for his pioneering contributions to the understanding of thermodynamics and mechanics of surfaces, thin films, and nanomaterials, and to the synthesis, processing, and mechanical behavior of nanocomposites. In recent years, his research focus shifted to carbon nanotubes and developing cost effective and more efficient ways of separating semiconducting nanotubes from metallic nanotubes. With support from JHU’s FastForward accelerator, Bob and his former student, Stephen Farias, PhD ‘14, founded NanoDirect to commercialize a technology he developed to separate different types of nanowires and nanoparticles.

Most importantly, Bob was a kind, caring, and supportive friend and mentor to so many in our community. His warmth, selflessness, and concern for others are the qualities that made him such an effective teacher and admired member of our faculty. His passion for his research and the caring he demonstrated toward his students and his colleagues set an example for everyone who knew Bob and are the legacy he has given to the Whiting School and to Johns Hopkins University.

Bob is survived by his wife, Sharka Prokes, his brother, Ronald Cammarata, and his sister-in-law, Norma Cammarata. A brief obituary appeared in the January 15 edition of the Baltimore Sun, which you can find here. A longer obituary was published in the February 10 edition of the Baltimore Sun, which you can read here.

We have created the Robert C. Cammarata Memorial Fund, which will support student research and activities in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. If you wish to honor Professor Cammarata’s memory and ensure that his legacy as a researcher, teacher, mentor, and colleague continues, you can do so here.

Robert C. Cammarata Memorial Fund


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