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Size of the Matter A recently established professorship is helping a U of M researcher build solutions to real-world problems molecule by molecule.

University of Memphis electrical and computer engineering professor Russell Deaton has simple advice for students looking for a path to success: “Do your homework and go to class,” he imparts. “That advice means that nothing comes easy and you have to work toward advancing toward success every day. Wasn’t it Woody Allen who said that 80 percent of success is showing up?” Weighty advice passed along by a man who deals in minute matters on a daily basis: Deaton is one of the country’s top researchers when it comes to research into the selfassembly of nanostructures using binding reactions between DNA molecules. Deaton’s aim, simply put, is to build useful devices and materials for applications in biology, medicine and materials science from the bottom up, molecule by molecule. “The goal of my research is to develop design methods and controllable manufacturing techniques to structure materials at the nanometer scale,” Deaton says. “It is basically a technique to manufacture materials with predetermined material properties by adding one molecule at a time. “The potential is for more intelligent and capable medical devices, better materials for energy applications, and smaller and more capable computational devices. The research also involves fundamental questions that relate to our understanding of living systems, and we hope to gain some scientific insight with

quantitative models into how life is organized and functions.” Deaton’s research creates huge potential for medical and energy applications that could impact millions of people in positive ways in the future. Deaton serves as chair of electrical and computer engineering in the Herff College of Engineering, and was recently appointed to the Ring Companies Professorship. A portion of the $256 million raised in the Empowering the Dream centennial capital campaign is establishing professorships such as Deaton’s to “play a crucial role in the University’s ability to recruit and retain talented faculty, and to provide a decided edge to U of M students in the global marketplace,” says Bobby Prince, U of M associate vice president for Development. Ring Container Technologies Inc. made a $300,000 gift to establish the professorship fund in 2010. Carl Ring, company chair, says, “For many years, we at Ring Companies have worked with Herff faculty and students and have found them to be highly skilled and among the best we’ve dealt with in the nation. I hope this gift will support the College in its continued pursuit of excellence, and will allow us to say ‘thank you’ to a group that highly deserves it.” The professorship allowed the U of M to bring the highly respected researcher back to campus after a 12-year absence. He previously was a faculty member in the Herff College

from 1992-2000 after earning a BSEE degree from the U of M and an MSEE and PhD from Duke University. “The Ring Companies Professorship gives me the opportunity to augment my research efforts to support students or my own research efforts,” Deaton says. But he notes this wasn’t the only reason he returned. “I greatly admire the accomplishments of the U of M,” he says. “To me, it is an example of an area institution where people from all sorts of backgrounds cooperate to accomplish things that benefit the whole community. I think it has a great power for good in Memphis, and I am proud and happy to help out.” Visit to explore the many different ways to contribute to the University, including professorships such as the Ring Companies Professorship.

“The Ring Companies Professorship gives me the opportunity to augment my research efforts to support students or my own research efforts.”

Dr. Russell Deaton is chair of electrical and computer engineering in the Herff College of Engineering and holds the Ring Companies Professorship. The recently completed $256 million Empowering the Dream centennial campaign is allowing the University to recruit high-level researchers by offering lucrative professorships. W W W. M E M P H I S . E D U

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