“In science as in life, every day is a new adventure.”
Those words greet visitors to the web site of Alexandra Navrotsky, a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. The sentiment is apt, because while Navrotsky has received a boatload of academic honors and awards — including the 2002 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth Science; and the 2009 Roebling Medal, the highest honor of the Mineralogical Society of America — she’s equally pleased by her 2011 election to the American Philosophical Society. This group holds two meetings each year at its Philadelphia headquarters, where Navrotsky will join additional new inductees such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, documentarian Ken Burns and New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, along with the roughly 1,000 ongoing members that comprise scientists, academics and thinkers in all fields. Past and present members have included George Washington, Marie Curie, astronaut Neil Armstrong, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and filmmaker Woody Allen.
Navrotsky holds the UC Davis Edward Roessler Chair in Mathematics and Physical Sciences, and she’s also director of the Organized Research Unit on Nanomaterials in the Environment, Agriculture and Technology (NEAT-ORU). Her research interests have focused on relating microscopic features of structure and bonding to macroscopic thermodynamic behavior in minerals, ceramics and other complex materials. Her laboratory’s primary technical area is high-temperature reaction calorimetry.
Navrotsky earned her degrees (B.S., M.S. and Ph.D.) at the University of Chicago, and then did postdoctoral work in Germany and at Penn State University. Subsequent stints at Arizona State University and Princeton eventually led to her 1997 move to UC Davis.
Although Navrotsky certainly derives considerable satisfaction from her academic career, her heart belongs to Central California Labrador Retriever Rescue, an organization that finds loving homes for abused, abandoned or unwanted dogs. She has fostered and adopted numerous dogs, and one of her most recent success stories involved Tahoe, a sweet yellow male lab stray who was heartworm positive upon arrival at the shelter. Treating such a dog is expensive, painful and time-consuming; the dog must be kept quiet for an entire month. As it happened, Tahoe bonded well with Navrotsky’s other three dogs — Franklin, Fready and Midnight — and never made the adoption list; his “forever home” now is with Navrotsky.
For more information on the College of Engineering’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, please email Oliver Ramsey.