On October 10, 2022, emeritus professor Joseph E. Greene passed away due to complications from a severe stroke in 2019.
Over a distinguished career that spanned more than 50 years, he made major contributions in multiple areas of crystal growth, thin-film physics, and surface science. He is also remembered with fondness as a friend, kind mentor, and valued colleague with wide-ranging interests.
A professor of Materials Science & Engineering and Physics, he served as the Director of UIUC’s Materials Research Laboratory and Center for Microanalysis of Materials from 1999 to 2004. In 1999, he was named to the very first cohort of Donald Biggar Willett Professors of Engineering at UIUC. He was also a Tage Erlander Visiting Professor and longtime Adjunct Professor at Linköping University, Sweden, and held a faculty position at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.
Joe was born in Arcata, California on November 25, 1944. The first member of his family to attend college, he earned three degrees at the University of Southern California: a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (1967), an M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Materials Science (1968), and a Ph.D. in Materials Science (1971). His doctoral dissertation presented pioneering work on glow discharge spectroscopy. He was recruited to join UIUC’s departments of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering and Metallurgy & Mining Engineering, and joined the Coordinated Science Lab shortly thereafter.
The focus of his research was on the development of atomic-level understanding of adatom/surface interactions during the dynamic process of vapor-phase crystal growth to enable controllable manipulation of nanochemistry, nanostructure, and, hence, physical properties. In particular, he used hyperthermal condensing species and UV photochemistry to probe and stimulate surface reactions that do not proceed thermally. His work involved nanoscience and film growth by all forms of sputter deposition, solid and gas-source molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), ultrahigh-vacuum chemical vapor deposition (UHV-CVD), metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD), and atomic-layer epitaxy (ALE).
He published hundreds of research papers and review articles and dozens of book chapters; co-edited four books; and presented hundreds of invited talks and plenary lectures. He is also remembered as a gifted educator—who routinely appeared on “teachers ranked as excellent by their students” lists at UIUC—and a leading figure in the international research community.
He was particularly active in the American Vacuum Society (AVS), for which he served as a Trustee, twice as a member of the Board of Directors, as Secretary, and (in 1989) as President. He chaired the AVS Thin Film and Advanced Surface Engineering Divisions. He was an AVS Councilor to the International Union of Vacuum Science, Technique and Applications, for which he also chaired the Thin Film Division, the Education Committee, and the Emerging Societies Committee; he also served on the Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics and the Executive Committee of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Materials Physics. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Thin Solid Films and Critical Reviews in Solid State and Materials Sciences.
Joe received numerous honors throughout his long and distinguished career. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2003 for “pioneering studies in the synthesis and characterization of epitaxial and highly ordered polycrystalline materials.” He was a University Scholar of the University of Illinois, and a Fellow of the AVS, the APS, and the Materials Research Society (MRS).
A selection of his other accolades includes, among many others, the AVS’s John Thornton Award (1991); an honorary doctorate from Linköping University (1992); SRC’s Technical Excellence Award (1993); the APS’s David Adler Lectureship Award in the Field of Materials Physics (1998); SRC’s Aristotle Award (1998); MRS’s David Turnbull Lectureship (1999); the Society of Vacuum Coaters’ Mentor Award (2015) and Nathaniel H. Sugerman Memorial Award (2018); and the R.F. Bunshah Award from AVS’s Advanced Surface Engineering Division (2019). He was the 2016–2017 George Sarton Chair at Ghent University in Belgium. He was honored with the Jan Czochralski Award and gold medal from the European Materials Research Society (2022) just days before his passing.
In 2001, his research on “extending the science of transition metal nitrides” was cited by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences as one of the most important scientific discoveries that they had supported.
While still at the peak of his career, Joe chose to transition to semi-retirement to pursue some of his other interests alongside his scientific work. An enthusiastic mountaineer and skier, he moved to Jackson, Wyoming, where he served for years as a volunteer search and rescue ranger at the Grand Teton National Park.
He is survived by his wife and partner of 55 years, Phyllis.