Beckman at 25: Matthew Eisler

Matthew N. Eisler.

2012 is the 25th anniversary of CHF’s Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry. To celebrate the Beckman Center’s remarkable achievements and its many accomplished fellows, we will be profiling one former fellow each month over the course of the year. This month we’d like you to meet Matthew N. (Matt) Eisler.

Matt was first at CHF as an Ullyot Scholar in 2004, working on a project on fuel cell technology that culminated in the recent publication of his first book, Overpotential: Fuel Cells, Futurism, and the Making of a Power Panacea (Rutgers University Press, 2012). It, like all of Matt’s work, tackles issues of considerable contemporary relevance. Using the Richard Smalley papers, which are housed at CHF, as well as archival material at the Smithsonian, NASA, the National Archives, and Cambridge University, Matt addresses the relationships between the academy, government and industry, as well as looking at environmental impacts and politics of new technologies.

Similar issues and themes have continued to define Matt’s research. From 2009-2011, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Center for Nanotechnology in Society. In 2011-2012 Matt returned to work on nanoscale science, engineering, and technology as a component of U.S. energy research and development policy at CHF’s Center for Contemporary History and Policy.

It might seem entertaining but irrelevant to add that Matt danced up a storm at the annual CHF Holiday Party, sings a mean Bob Dylan at karaoke, has become an old friend to staff at the buffet Indian restaurant down the street, or recently helped another fellow move on one of the hottest days of the year, but in fact the ways in which Matt has become a part of the social and intellectual network at CHF have added richness (and fun) to the building. They are also representative of one of the great payoffs of a Beckman Center fellowship: when Matt talks about how he benefitted from his 2004 work at the Beckman Center, he often emphasizes connections he made with other scholars who have been important to his career.

It was at CHF that Matthew met Dr. Kathryn Bullock, a former president of the Electrochemical Society and one of his early mentors, as well as other young scholars, including Michael Egan, Christophe Lécuyer, Cyrus Mody, and Gabriella Petrick, all of whom influenced his thinking in various ways. The human resources that can be found in the Beckman Center’s wide network of alumni and staff are among the most valuable aspects of the program.

Next fall Matt is off to the University of Virginia’s Department of Science, Technology, and Society. We will miss him and wish him all the best. We are both glad and proud to count him among our alumni.

Carin Berkowitz is the associate director of CHF’s Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry.

Beckman at 25: Gabriele Ferrario and David Schleifer [Periodic Tabloid]
Beckman at 25: Jennifer Rampling [Periodic Tabloid]

Posted In: Fellows

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