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Distinguished Lecture | Alumni

I Never Met-a-Material I Didn’t Like!

Dr. Rodger WalserPresident and CEOMetamaterials, Inc.
3316 EECS BuildingMap
Rodger Walser

Scholars frequently associate the waypoints of humankind’s journey with materials innovations; e.g. stone-iron-steel…silicon ages. I will make the case that we may now be in the metamaterials-age. You can argue that I am only doing this to feather my nest, because I “coined” the term, wrote the first papers defining metamaterials, etc.  I plead guilty, but I welcome the chance to explain my position.

Throughout history, important metamaterials have been discovered, mostly accidently, and by smart people who intuited a metamaterials approach. However, some, like Louis Pasteur, J.C. Bose, and Edwin Land, have exploited the metamaterials algorithm explicitly. This has led me to think it worthwhile to formally communicate the elements of this algorithm to enhance its utility.

I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to return to my alma mater where my intellectual life began, and share the thrill of my discovery of the metamaterials approach in my Ph.D. research at the University of Michigan. I pursued these efforts further as a co-founder of two spinoff Ann Arbor companies.

I have fond memories of my years at Michigan and love this place. Reluctantly, I left to begin a 43 year career as Professor of ECE and MSE at the University of Texas at Austin, and upon retirement, a subsequent 10 year adventure in metamaterials while on National Sevice requested by the USG.

After a review of the metamaterials algorithm, I will exmplify it using the earliest and most advanced electrical engineering practical metamaterials, now called MetaFerrites.

I will argue that a large number of currently investigated unique materials could be incorporated as phyla in the alpha taxonomy of metamaterials.  I invite question; “Can a metamaterials algorithm based on NI (natural intelligence) be used to complement AI (artificial intelligence) to advance new materials discovery?”


Rodger Walser (BSE MSE PhD EE ‘59 ‘61 ‘67) is President and CEO of MetaMaterials, Inc., a company he founded in 2004.  He previously founded and operated Ardex, Inc. from 1984-1990.

As a graduate student at Michigan he worked at Conductron Corporation, closely affiliated with the Radiation Laboratory. Shortly after graduating he joined the University of Texas at Austin. He retired in 2009 after a 42-year career. Walser was the Annis and Jack Bowen Professor of Engineering and affiliated with the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Materials Science.

The principal common objective of much of his scientific research has been to contribute to understanding the role of electronic phenomena in non-equilibrium and far-from-equilibrium metal-nonmetal phase transitions at interfaces. Almost all of his applied research has been focused on developing new magnetic, optical, and microwave materials and devices enabled by innovative thin film and multilayer processing.

Walser is known as the first to coin the term “metamaterial,” in reference to a new class of material he invented. He has published over 230 refereed academic research papers, and over 400 conference papers, presentations, and reports.

He is presently involved in writing a book entitled Metamaterials Science and exploring new technologies based on MetaMaterials Inc.’s pioneering metamaterial developments.


Crystal Hoppe