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Doug Keszler headshot on campus

Lifetime Achievement in Science Award: Pioneer of sustainability-driven science and innovation

By Hannah Ashton

University Distinguished Professor Douglas Keszler is a world-renowned materials chemist and a leading figure in the field of new generation semiconductor and solar energy devices. He has distinguished himself as an innovator, founding at least two successful startups from research developed in his labs. His scientific entrepreneurial drive, energy and vision have helped shape Corvallis into an industrial hub of cutting-edge materials science and chemistry innovation.

“Doug Keszler’s groundbreaking work is a prime example of the innovative science the College aims to achieve for the benefit of the people of Oregon and beyond. We are incredibly proud of him,” said Vrushali Bokil, interim dean of the College of Science.

On Oct. 21 he will receive the College of Science’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement in Science Award for his remarkable accomplishments that have brought honor, distinction and visibility to the College and to Oregon State University. “I was surprised and happy to be included among the other distinguished, recognized leaders who have received an award in the past,” he said.

Groundbreaking innovation

In 2007, Keszler co-founded the OSU spinout company Inpria. In 2016 Chemical & Engineering News named Inpria one of the “10 startups to watch,” and in 2021 the company was acquired by JSR for $514 million. The Corvallis-based company enables semiconductor manufacturers to make more powerful, efficient and affordable integrated circuits that power our everyday electronics, from smartphones to PCs.

Inpria produces a liquid chemical with an inorganic, tin-oxide base that is used in the production of semiconductor microchips through a process called photolithography. In this process, manufactures apply a nanometers-thin layer of ultraviolet to record and replicated a stencil pattern onto the chemical-coated wafer, which can subsequently be transferred to create the circuit patterns. Extreme ultraviolet is used because its short wavelengths allow for the smallest possible patterning.

The smaller the nanostructure the longer the life of the integrated circuit technology, reducing costs and enabling manufacturing of the next generation of semiconductors and energy storage devices.

In 2018, he founded nexTC Corporation as a spinout from the NSF-funded Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry and the Department of Chemistry. It provides high-performance, low-cost thin film manufacturing processes that enhance energy conversion and energy efficiency.

The corporation, led by CEO Cory Perkins, a former postdoctoral scientist in Keszler’s lab, is noted for inventing several thin-film technologies for environmentally friendly electronics and energy efficient products such as smart windows.

As Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies from 2014 to 2020, Keszler helped launch the College’s faculty seed funding program, called SciRIS, to foster new proposals that build teams, pursue fundamental discoveries and create societal impact. Keszler has received numerous awards and accolades, including the Exxon Solid-state Chemistry Award and a 2017 American Chemical Society national award in the Chemistry of Materials. He received the Oregon State Researcher of the Year Award in 2003 and Faculty Innovator Award in 2019. “You don’t win awards without great students being involved in the efforts,” he said.

Keszler joined Oregon State in 1985 as an assistant professor of chemistry. He received his bachelor’s degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1979 and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1984. He also participated in a Postdoctoral Fellowship from Cornell University from 1984-1985.

Keszler picked Oregon State because of its imaginative approach to materials chemistry.

“At that time OSU launched an effort in materials, which at the time was very cutting edge, even visionary for the institution and chemistry department to be thinking in terms of the future,” he said.

Since retiring in December, Keszler has continued to work on a few Oregon State related projects while also investing in early career scientists with promising business ventures.