In Memoriam: Oliver Brand
Apr 20, 2023 —
Oliver Brand, the executive director of the Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN), passed away on April 13, 2023. He was a valued researcher, leader, colleague, and friend.
Described by friends and colleagues as a true gentleman scholar, Brand made a lasting impact on those he met.
“Oliver was a gentle soul. He led IEN with empathy and advocated vigorously for his team,” said Chaouki Abdallah, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. “When asked to participate in large research initiatives, he was inclusive and effective. He knew when to lead, and when to support. Our recent successes in capturing large semiconductor funding are largely due to Oliver’s expertise and his leadership. I will miss him.”
“Oliver was beloved by staff, students, and faculty alike at Georgia Tech and around the world. He was a delightful person who made every occasion brighter with his kindness, dedication, passion, and intellect,” added Julia Kubanek, vice president of interdisciplinary research at Georgia Tech. “His research contributions have been far-reaching, exemplifying true transdisciplinarity. He advocated tirelessly for the career interests and needs of researchers, especially his students as well as the research faculty and staff of IEN. He made IEN a true family and we will miss him enormously.”
Brand spent more than 20 years as a member of the Georgia Tech faculty and officially began his role as executive director of IEN in 2014. In addition to leading IEN, he was a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), the director of the Coordinating Office for the NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) as well as director of the Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor, one of the 16 NNCI sites.
“Oliver's impact at Georgia Tech and ECE was exceptional, as very few individuals in any academic setting can match the magnitude of his influence,” said Arijit Raychowdhury, the Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of ECE. “While he was undoubtedly a distinguished figure in the research community, Oliver was equally renowned at ECE as a mentor and educator. He had a unique ability to instill his enthusiasm for learning and exploration in you, motivating you to strive for excellence not just professionally, but more importantly as a friend and human being.”
Brand was passionate about supporting and connecting those doing basic and applied research in the areas of electronics and nanotechnology, and under his direction, IEN grew to include more than 200 faculty members at Georgia Tech from multiple colleges and departments.
"During his tenure as executive director of IEN, Oliver skillfully guided the significant expansion of Georgia Tech's world-class research programs, core facilities, and educational activities in electronics and nanotechnology,” said Michael Filler, associate director for research programs in IEN. “He was instrumental in securing the coordinating office for the NSF-supported National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure. Most importantly, Oliver was cherished by the IEN community for his unassuming yet effective approach to team building and his unwavering commitment to supporting others."
“As director of IEN, Oliver’s leadership put Georgia Tech at the international forefront in nanotechnology and user facilities,” added Eric Vogel, executive director of the Institute for Materials and former deputy director of IEN. “While Oliver’s professional impact was immense, I will most remember that he was good to everyone he interacted with."
Brand was a leading researcher in the area of Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and, in particular, the development of micro-scale physical, chemical, and biological sensors. He used his expertise in this area to help create the NIH-funded Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies (ACME POCT), a center focused on the development and translation of microsystems-engineered technologies including microchip-enabled devices, MEMs-based sensors, microfluidics, and smartphone-based systems. ACME POCT was instrumental in developing accurate Covid-19 tests as part of the NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative, which was critical in slowing the spread of the virus.
“Oliver was a true pioneer in the field of microsystems engineering and nanotechnology. In more recent years, his interest expanded to the development of sensors for medical applications, and I had the good fortune of partnering with him on multiple collaborations,” said Wilbur Lam, a professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Brand’s co-director of ACME POCT. “During the last several years, thanks in large part to Oliver’s leadership, our Center served as the national test validation center to verify the performance of Covid-19 diagnostics for the NIH and FDA, and Oliver and our team helped the entire country in ‘testing the tests’ to combat the global pandemic.”
In a 2022 article published by the New York Times, Bruce Tromberg, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Engineering, called Brand and the rest of the team “absolutely heroic” for their contributions to the Covid-19 pandemic. The team also received the Outstanding Achievement in Research Program Development Award at the annual Georgia Tech Faculty and Staff Honors Luncheon in the spring of 2022 for their work in this area.
Throughout his career, Brand co-authored more than 120 publications in scientific journals and conference proceedings. He received the 2011 ECE Distinguished Mentor Award and the 2012 ECE Richard M. Bass/Eta Kappa Nu Outstanding Teacher Award, which is determined by the vote of the ECE senior class. He also served as general co-chair of the 2008 IEEE International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, co-editor of the Wiley-VCH book series Advanced Micro and Nanosystems, was a member of the editorial board of Sensors and Materials, a co-recipient of the 2005 IEEE Donald G. Fink Prize Paper Award, and a senior member of IEEE.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Claudia, and his children Marina and Tim. He will be deeply missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.