Mark De Guire celebrates 35 years at CWRU, receives Gutti Memorial Teaching Award


When Mark De Guire was a college freshman, he knew he wanted to major in a discipline of engineering, but was unsure about which to choose. Soon after he arrived on the University of Illinois campus, he ran into a high school classmate who told him she was majoring in ceramic engineering. Having previously thought of ceramics as tableware and bricks, De Guire was intrigued, and his friend recommended he talk to the department chair, Arthur Friedberg (who later served as Executive Director of The American Ceramic Society).

De Guire went to meet Freidberg, who told him about the roles ceramics play in electronics and aerospace. Friedberg also mentioned the then-new idea of telecommunications over glass fibers. By then, De Guire was “hooked” and signed up for his first few ceramics classes. “Before that, I had no idea that things I appreciated for practicality and aesthetic beauty also had a modern, space age angle to them.”

De Guire went on to earn his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Ceramic Engineering from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By the time he earned his Ph.D. in 1987, he had offers from two national laboratories, and one to join the faculty of Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He knew of the department’s strengths and reputation, particularly the research of Professors Arthur Heuer and Alfred Cooper, and of John Halloran, who was on the CWRU faculty before he started his own ceramics company. De Guire and his wife, both native midwesterners, also liked the location of CWRU. He began at CWRU on March 1, 1987.

Mark De Guire with his wife Eileen and their son Adam at the 2015 Materials Science and Technology meeting, where he was made a fellow of ASM international

Now celebrating 35 years, De Guire has made substantial research, teaching, and service contributions to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. His 35-year anniversary coincided with him receiving the prestigious Gutti Memorial Teaching Award from Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. It is presented annually to a Case School of Engineering faculty member who shows an exemplary commitment to undergraduate teaching. Students conduct the selection process. De Guire felt “extremely gratified” to have been selected, pointing out that he knows many faculty members who have been selected in the past and that he was “honored” to count himself among them.

"Education is cultivation,” said De Guire. “You’re helping young people cultivate their intelligence and building on intelligence they have, as well developing and growing their knowledge.” He pointed out that CWRU students have always wanted to work hard to add to their understanding and knowledge of engineering, but has noticed that over the past 15 years or so, it’s become about more than the students themselves. “They want to have an impact.”

"The thing that made Professor De Guire special was not just the cutting edge research conducted in his lab nor the late hours preparing for and instructing students on the exquisite world of materials science, but rather his strength as a treasured mentor by many,” said Jonathan Healy, who took classes from De Guire, was one of his academic advisees, and was an undergraduate teaching assistant for him in ENGR 145: Chemistry of Materials. “Professor De Guire always took it upon himself to serve as a guide for the Materials Science undergraduates both in official and unofficial capacities which speaks volumes of his character.” 

"Professor De Guire played a large part in shaping my experience as a Materials Science Undergraduate and consequently my career thus far,” added Healy, who graduated from CWRU in 2018 with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering and went on to become a materials engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center. “I am truly appreciative and forever will be thankful to be able to call Professor De Guire a most treasured mentor.”

De Guire taught ENGR 145 to more than 3,700 mostly first-year students from every engineering department at CWRU in eleven spring semesters and two summers. ENGR 145 is one of the first engineering courses that students take at CWRU. De Guire implemented a software package now called Granta EduPack to help students learn the strong influence of chemical bonding on the properties of engineering materials. The package compiles mechanical, chemical, electrical and thermal materials properties, allowing users to see trends across all categories of materials and to see trends within a category. “(The package) is a great way to show that electrical conductivity is coupled to thermal conductivity in some materials, and not others — and why,” said De Guire. “With a few keystrokes, you can generate a graph that shows properties of hundreds of real engineering materials and the relationships between them.” Successfully introducing the software into a first-year engineering course contributed to De Guire receiving CSE’s Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2014.

Jessica LaLonde, who graduated from CWRU in 2019 with her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at Duke University, cites her experience with De Guire as a major contributor in her decision to pursue materials science. “The way he taught the class completely changed my perspective on engineering,” said LaLonde.

Originally, LaLonde planned to major in English literature at CWRU. “It took me a long time to catch up to my peers in basic engineering classes, but Professor De Guire was constantly supportive,” she said. Having “always been fascinated by the natural world and how to create more sustainable materials,” LaLonde thanked De Guire for being “open-minded and kind enough to listen to my crazy ideas on research” and working with her to craft an elective sequence in biomimetic materials.

De Guire also appreciated forming strong relationships with the ENGR 145 undergraduate teaching assistants. “It was great to see (the TAs) so dedicated to helping students just a little younger than them become engineers,” he said.

During his 35 years at CWRU, De Guire developed three new courses, including EMSE 349/449: Role of Materials in Energy and Sustainability, for which he received the Case School of Engineering’s Graduate Teaching Award in 2021. Motivated by his lifelong interest in the impact of technology on the environment, De Guire developed a course that shows materials to be part of the problem, but also part of the solution, of sustainability. This course is open to both undergraduate and graduate students and has drawn substantial enrollment from students across the Case School of Engineering.

Additionally, De Guire has seen significant in- and out-of-department enrollment in another course he developed, EMSE 345: Engineered Materials for Biomedical Applications. The course shows how materials processing, structure, and properties determine materials performance under the engineering demands of physiological environments. Students have said that the perspective of materials engineering in this course complements the physiological and clinical perspectives of courses on biomedical materials taught in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. 

De Guire began his teaching career by creating EMSE 405: Dielectric, Optical, and Magnetic Properties of Materials, which covered magnetic and optical properties for solid state linear and non-linear dielectrics, as well as the underlying physics and chemistry.

In addition to developing a new course as a new faculty member, De Guire almost immediately started researching ceramic superconductors with Heuer and CWRU physics faculty member David Farrell. Farrell did all the measuring of the superconducting properties, while De Guire and his materials students synthesized the materials. The collaborators  showed that powder particles of these materials could be rotated in a magnetic field, a finding that many research groups used to try to improve the electrical properties of the ceramics. The 1987 paper reporting those results has been cited over 500 times, one of  De Guire’s most cited papers.

Later, De Guire and Heuer began working on creating ceramic thin films from aqueous solutions at temperatures that are very low by ceramic standards, 100 °C or below. The group of Professor Chaim Sukenik of CWRU’s Department of Chemistry made organic self-assembled monolayers on silicon wafers, on which De Guire’s and Heuer’s students would deposit thin films of zirconia, titania, tin oxide, and other ceramics. That work caught the interest of the Max-Planck-Institut für Metallforschung in Stuttgart, Germany, and formed the basis for his sabbatical there  (1996–1997). 

Living in Germany for a year with his wife and four children, who were between four and twelve years old at the time, was “challenging and wonderful,” De Guire said. Having taken two years of German in high school and a year in college, he appreciated being exposed to German being spoken “in real time.” His children went to German schools, and the family used living there as a “launching pad” to visit Italy, France and England.

Mark De Guire with his wife Eileen and their daughter Jeannette at Jeannette’s May 2009 graduation from CWRU

De Guire’s collaborations in Germany lasted for over ten years, and led to new international collaborations in Japan and in Israel. “Hosts were always so welcoming and generous when I visited these countries,” said De Guire, who appreciated the long-term friendships he developed as well as the scientific research. Seven of his graduate students and post-doctoral researchers also conducted experiments in the labs of these overseas colleagues, or participated in international conferences.

In the early 2000s, De Guire and Heuer collaborated with Rolls Royce Fuel Cell Systems (which later became LG Fuel Cell Systems) on microstructure-performance relationships in solid oxide fuel cells. The ability of the industrial partners to make fuel cells and test them for a year or more, combined with the capabilities of CWRU’s Swagelok Center for Surface Analysis of Materials to carry out 3D reconstruction of the cells before and after testing, led to new insights that may lead to improvements in the long-term performance of solid oxide fuel cells. 

In the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, De Guire chairs the undergraduate studies committee, serves as an academic advisor to undergraduate EMSE students, and advises the Undergraduate Materials Society. He considers himself lucky to have advised some “outstanding students,” many of whom he still stays in touch with.

Mark De Guire with some Undergraduate Materials Society members in 2019

"Professor De Guire has been an amazing professor to me and a great PI,” said Andrew Cai, whom De Guire advised on both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Materials Science and Engineering. 

"Many of the skills and knowledge from my thesis work have been extremely useful in my career, especially with technical vendor communication and experimental analysis,” added Cai, a Chemical Mechanical Planarization Sustaining Engineer at Intel Corporation.

"Every engineer wants to improve society,” said De Guire. “But the essence of engineering is not ‘bigger, higher, farther, faster, — it is doing the best you can with what you have.”