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Penn State community grieves loss of chemist John V. Badding

31 October 2019


John V. Badding, a renowned professor of chemistry and an esteemed friend and colleague of many members of the Penn State community, passed away on October 26 at the age of 57.

Born on May 6, 1962, in Buffalo, New York, he was raised in Cortlandt Manor in Westchester County. Badding is survived by his wife of 25 years, Mizue Badding; his two children, Catherine Kyoko Badding, currently an undergraduate student pursuing chemistry at Cornell University, and Edward Daisuke Badding, currently a chemistry graduate student at MIT; his parents, Victor and Nancy Badding; and his brother, Michael Badding.

Badding came to Penn State in 1991 as an assistant professor of chemistry. Previously, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institute of Washington. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College and his doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley, with Professor of Chemistry Angelica Stacy. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Materials Research Society, and Sigma Xi. In addition to his role as a professor of chemistry, he was named professor of physics in 2014 and professor of materials science and engineering in 2015.

Badding was passionate about graduate education and supporting young scientists. During his career, he mentored more than 40 graduate students and postdocs with exceptional attention to their development as independent scientists. He also served as the chair of the chemistry department's Graduate Admissions Committee for 10 years. In this capacity, he not only helped the department maintain its reputation as one of the finest in the field but, more importantly, opened doors for hundreds of young scientists at the start of their careers.

Badding taught first-year chemistry, junior-level physical chemistry and physical chemistry laboratory, graduate thermodynamics, and a popular general education course for non-chemistry undergraduates, which he was particularly passionate about. He was known among students as an inspirational and approachable instructor.

By combining his expertise in chemistry and high-pressure techniques in unique ways, Badding achieved the synthesis of materials and molecules that others could not, including the discovery of a striking new means to organize carbon atoms and innovative ways to deposit semiconductors and metals into extraordinarily confined spaces inside optical fibers and porous solids to form new photonic and electronic materials. The impact of this work in solid-state chemistry is reflected in the necessity of coining two new words—nanothreads and metal lattices—to describe ways of organizing matter that his group had discovered. Badding always highlighted the roles of his students and postdocs in achieving these discoveries. He launched and led the Center for Nanothread Chemistry, one of only two NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation initiated in 2018, and played a leadership role in Penn State’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. During the course of his career, Badding authored more than 200 publications and held four patents.

Badding was the recipient of Penn State's Faculty Scholar Award in 2015, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship in 1993, the National Science Foundation's National Young Investigator Award in 1993, and the Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Outside of the lab, Badding enjoyed spending time with his family and hiking in the natural beauty of Pennsylvania and other areas, including a recent trip to Yellowstone National Park. He was fascinated by the Civil War, reading multiple books about Abraham Lincoln and General Sherman in his free time. At home, he loved his five cats: Ashura, Tuffy, Roger, Puchy, and Ruffy.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Pennsylvania State University in memory of Dr. John Badding. Gifts can be sent to the Eberly College of Science, Office of Development and Alumni Relations, 430 Thomas Building, University Park, PA  16802. In recognition of Badding’s passion for graduate education, gifts will support graduate students in the Department of Chemistry.