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University professor dies at age 55

Scott+R.+White%2C+aerospace+engineering+professor%2C+died+on+May+28+at+age+55.+White+is+credited+with+pioneering+self-healing+and+adaptive+materials.+He+is+survived+by+his+parents%2C+wife%2C+three+children+and+two+grandchildren.
Scott R. White, aerospace engineering professor, died on May 28 at age 55. White is credited with pioneering self-healing and adaptive materials. He is survived by his parents, wife, three children and two grandchildren.

Scott R. White, aerospace engineering professor, died on May 28 at age 55. White is credited with pioneering self-healing and adaptive materials. He is survived by his parents, wife, three children and two grandchildren.

Photo Courtesy of Brian Stauffer

Photo Courtesy of Brian Stauffer

Scott R. White, aerospace engineering professor, died on May 28 at age 55. White is credited with pioneering self-healing and adaptive materials. He is survived by his parents, wife, three children and two grandchildren.

By Madalyn Velisaris, Staff Writer

Scott R. White, aerospace engineering professor, died of cancer on May 28 at age 55.

According to the Illinois News Bureau, White was known as a pioneer of self-healing and self-regulating materials.

He was known for his extensive research and groundbreaking findings throughout the field of engineering. Many saw him as an expert in autonomous materials.

During his time at the University, White created many kinds of self-healing and adaptive materials, designing healing materials for cracks or damages and applied it to lithium-ion batteries at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Philippe Geubelle, department head of aerospace engineering and professor in engineering, was a good friend and colleague of White in the aerospace engineering department.

Throughout Geubelle’s 23 years at the University, he worked on multiple research projects with White and said that people remember him as an important person within his field.

“They will remember an extremely dynamic and creative faculty member that has made many contributions to the field of novel materials, of a faculty member who had a remarkable relationship with his students,” Geubelle said in an email.

White’s contributions and research have helped many former students of his achieve success in the industries they work in.

The passing of White is seen as a big loss to University. Especially with all of the research he accomplished during his time.

According to the White Research Group, the research team White led, the team was interested in the development of new materials that display autonomic functionality.

“We take our inspiration from biology, where autonomous systems are common and the rule. Perhaps the most recognizable manifestation is self-healing — inspired by biological healing and realized in structural polymers and composites,” said the White Research Group website.

The White Research Group was also interested in engineering the different functions materials have. They worked with a variety of topics within the engineering field, including thermal management, regeneration, reconfiguration, damage detection, threat assessment, self-sensing, anti-corrosion, anti-fouling and remodeling.

Jeffry S. Moore, director of the Beckman Institute and professor in engineering who worked with White on research projects since 1998 and has collaborated on multiple research projects with White throughout the past 20 years, saw White as a key player within his field. Moore cites one of White’s most important findings as his self-healing polymer.

“He was the father of self-healing polymers. He was the person who really brought ideas together,” Moore said.

When it underwent damage, the polymer would figure out how to repair itself after the damage was done, like when someone breaks a bone and then the bone heals itself.

White was the founder of Autonomic Materials Incorporated, which manufactures a product that prevents the spread of corrosion in industrial-based applications, Moore said.

He was a trailblazer when it came to research. Instead of using a traditional approach to research, he would use more of a team-based approach. White’s team-based approach brought people together, making the research set-up possibly lasting much longer after his death.

White was also known for guiding students and the people he worked with on research to accomplish their goals and to strive to be their best.

“He was dedicated to making his students be the best that they could be,” Moore said. “Everybody that left his group really felt that the time that they were there had allowed them to achieve their fullest and that they left with confidence knowing that they had the ability to accomplish whatever they set their mind on.”

Moore cites White as putting the University on the map for advanced materials and research, especially with polymeric materials.

During the 20th century, the progress in polymeric materials was to make a material better, but White took it to a whole new level.

“In the 21st century, I think Scott was a pioneer. His legacy will be remembered as a person who saw that materials need to go beyond their fabrication,” Moore said.

White was also extremely proud of his family. He is survived by his parents, his wife Nancy R. Sottos, engineering professor, three children and two grandchildren.  

“He was just a great person, all around, and he knew how to enjoy life and make the most out of it,” Moore said.

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