David G. Cahill


David Cahill is the Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering (MatSE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.   He holds courtesy appointments in the Department of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering and the Department of Physics. He joined the faculty of the U. Illinois after earning his Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Cornell University, and working as a postdoctoral research associate at the IBM Watson Research Center.  Prof. Cahill was the department head of MatSE from 2010 to 2018. His research program focuses on developing a microscopic understanding of thermal transport at the nanoscale; the discovery of materials with enhanced thermal function; the interactions between phonons, electrons, photons, and spin; and advancing fundamental understanding of interfaces between materials and water.

Awards and honors

  • Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering, College of Engineering, 2020 to present.
  • Tau Beta Pi Daniel C. Drucker Eminent Faculty Award, U. Illinois, College of Engineering, 2020.
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Section on Engineering, 2020.
  • Innovation in Materials Characterization Award, Materials Research Society 2018; citation: For developing transformative methods for characterizing the thermal transport properties of materials and their interfaces using time-domain thermoreflectance (TDTR) and related approaches.  MRS TV interview.
  • Yeram S. Touloukian Award, American Society of Mechanical Engineers 2015; citation: For sustained, pioneering contributions to heat conduction metrology including the 3-omega and optical pump-probe methods, which are pervasive in laboratories worldwide; and for landmark contributions on the minimum and ultralow thermal conductivity of solids.
  • Fellow of the Materials Research Society, 2012; citation: For the pioneering development of measurement techniques and scientific understanding of thermal transport in materials at nanometer length scales.
  • Elected to the cycle of vice-chair, program-chair, chair of the Division of Materials Physics, American Physical Society, 2011-2014.
  • Editorial Board of Journal of Applied Physics, 2010 to 2020.
  • Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering, U. Illinois, College of Engineering, 2005-2020.
  • Fellow of the American Physical Society, 2005; citation: For original and influential contributions to the physics of heat conduction in materials and the evolution of surface morphology during crystal growth and etching.
  • Chair of 2003 Gordon Research Conference, “Thin Film and Crystal Growth Mechanisms.”
  • Willett Faculty Scholar Award, U. Illinois, College of Engineering, 2002-2004.
  • University Scholar, U. Illinois, 2000-2003.
  • Xerox Award for Faculty Research, U. Illinois, College of Engineering, 2000.
  • Peter Mark Memorial Award, American Vacuum Society, 1998, for “seminal contributions to the atomic-level understanding of thermal conductivity in thin films and surface roughening/smoothing mechanisms during film growth and etching.”
  • Fellow of the American Vacuum Society, 1998.
  • Charles Lucks Award, for significant contribution to the subject of thermal conductivity by a young investigator, International Thermal Conductivity Conference, 1989.
  • NSF Graduate Fellow, 1984-1987.