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Two new professorships awarded from $95 million Russ family gift

Srdjan Nesic and Gerri Botte receive five-year appointments

Two additional engineering faculty members at Ohio University are being recognized with new professorships as a result of a $95 million estate gift made to the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology in 2008.

Srdjan Nesic and Gerri Botte, both professors of chemical and biomolecuar engineering, have been named Russ Professors. The five-year professorships carry an annual salary supplement as well as a travel budget to attend professional meetings in order to present and promote work. 

Bequeathed by the late Fritz, a 1942 electrical engineering alumnus, and Dolores Russ, the estate gift is the largest charitable gift to any public university in the state of Ohio – or any public engineering college in the U.S.

Nesic has led the Institute for Corrosion and Multiphase Technology (ICMT) as director since 2002. The largest facility of its kind in the world, the ICMT performs corrosion research sponsored by the leading oil and gas companies across the globe. Under Nesic’s leadership, external research funding increased ten-fold since 2002, from $250,000 to more than $2.5 million annually for the last two years.

Nesic, who holds visiting and adjunct professorships positions across the world, says the professorship brings internal recognition to his work that is known beyond Ohio University.

“I feel greatly encouraged to re-double my efforts in order to empower my colleagues, to even better educate and prepare our students and to carve out a permanent place for ICMT as the center of excellence for corrosion research worldwide,” he said.

A fellow of the international corrosion professional society NACE International (NACE International (National Association of Corrosion Engineers), Nesic also received the H.H. Uhlig Award from NACE for outstanding effectiveness in post-secondary education.
Gerri Botte, director of the new Center for Electrochemical Engineering Research, is internationally recognized for her research on and development of ammonia and hydrogen-based fuel cells. She is the first researcher to efficiently convert urine/human wastewater into an alternative fuel source using electrochemical techniques. In one project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, Botte’s process is being developed to provide quiet, clean and low-impact electricity in order to make military camps more self-sufficient and secure.

Botte credits her success in part to the Russes, having received the 2006 Russ Outstanding Research Paper Award – which was also created by the Russes.

“The paper that selected for the award was the first publication about the ammonia electrolysis technology. Due to that paper, I won a National Science Foundation award,” Botte explained.

“There are a lot of things the Russes left behind that we are learning from still, and that’s inspiring,” Botte added.

Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin says the Russes would be proud to learn of these accomplishments.

“They believed strongly in the power of private giving to reward outstanding performance on the part of Russ College faculty,” Irwin said.

The two new Russ Professorships join two others, currently held by pavement expert Shad Sargand, director of the Accelerated Pavement Load Facility and associate director of the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment, and global positioning system expert Frank Van Graas, professor of electrical engineering.

Van Graas agreed that the Russes were inspiring.

“I remember talking to Fritz, and he was always very interested, wanted to know exactly what was going on, and most importantly, how he could help,” Van Graas said.

Neil D. Thomas Professor Gayle Mitchell, chair of the department of civil engineering and director of the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment, also holds the title of Russ Professor as a past recipient.