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Philip Rack

Rack Named MSE Interim Department Head

Professor and Leonard G. Penland Chair Philip Rack has been selected as interim head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, effective July 1.

“Dr. Rack has had several other leadership roles in the past and is ready to take on this important role,” said Matthew Mench, dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair of the college. “As we begin a search this fall for the next department head of MSE, I am excited that we won’t be standing still under Dr. Rack and look forward to working with him to help the department continue its positive momentum.”

Rack replaces Veerle Keppens, who was recently named vice provost for faculty affairs.

 “Under Dr. Keppens, the MSE program has reached tremendous new highs,” Mench said.  “From the highest ranking ever for MSE in U.S. News & World Report at 24th among public institutions and a No. 1 rank in metallurgy to a strong record of scholarly work and impact, numerous Goldwater fellowships for its undergraduates, and a tremendous new core of excellent faculty hired under her watch, she leaves the department in the best position it has ever been.”

Rack joined the faculty at the University of Tennessee in 2001. His research interests are thin-film processing and characterization, materials and device nanofabrication, and nanoscale electron, ion, and photon beam induced processing. Rack is also the director of the Center for Materials Processing.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead our distinguished faculty and dedicated staff in MSE. I have grown up in this department and tremendously value the unique collegial culture,” Rack said. “The department has enjoyed a tremendous improvement in our rankings under Professor Keppens’ leadership, and I am committed to continue our positive trajectory while we search for the permanent successor.” 

Rack earned his bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Georgia Tech in 1993, and his PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Florida in 1997.

After working at Advanced Vision Technologies Inc. as a senior research scientist for two years, Rack joined the faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology in the Microelectronic Engineering Department, where he taught courses in thin film processing, materials characterization, and microlithography.

Rack has authored or co-authored more than 200 journal articles and has contributed to more than 330 technical presentations at national and international conferences. He is a fellow of the American Vacuum Society (AVS) and received an AVS Fellowship in 2018.

Rack is a three-time winner of the TCE Research Fellow Award and a two-time winner of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) Division for Distinguished Scientific Paper.

Rack has been married to his wife, Karen, for 30 years and they have seven children.


Rhiannon Potkey (865-974-0683,