The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Mas Subramanian Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

September 30, 2015


“Luck Only Favors the Alert Mind”  September 30, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Subramanian discusses his family background and upbringing in Madras, India, commenting on the cultural and political milieu in which he was raised, and likewise noting his earliest interests in science and the means by which he pursued this passion as a boy. He then recalls the years of his higher education, including his undergraduate and master's studies in Chemistry at the University of Madras, and his doctoral candidacy at the Madras branch of the Indian Institute of Technology. In reflecting on his time as a Ph.D. student, Subramanian makes particular note of his influential early investigations on pyrochlores, and the chance meeting with Abraham Clearfield that led to his relocation to the United States.

From there, Subramanian describes his stint as a post-doctoral researcher at Texas A&M University, where he led investigations on new materials for use in batteries. He then details the circumstances by which he came to be employed as a researcher at DuPont, where he remained for twenty-two years. Subramanian's discussion of his time at DuPont include memories of the research that he led, his work habits and the work environment at the company, and his impressions of life on the East Coast.

The remainder of the session focuses on Subramanian's career as a faculty member at Oregon State University. In this, he outlines his decision to move into academia from DuPont, and also speaks of setting up his laboratory and initiating a new program of research. A major topic of the interview is the story behind the Subramanian lab's accidental discovery of a new form of blue pigment in 2009. In recounting this breakthrough, Subramanian also provides insight into the discovery's importance and the role that good fortune has frequently played in the history of scientific advancement.

The interview concludes with Subramanian's thoughts on his association with the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute; his perspective on change in the College of Science; and his ambitions for the future.