In Memoriam: Mark A. Reed, Professor of Electrical Engineering & Applied Physics

Updated 03/25/2022: Click here to view an obituary published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Mark A. Reed, the Harold Hodgkinson Professor of Electrical Engineering & Applied Physics, and integral member of the SEAS community for three decades, passed away peacefully in his home on May 5, 2021, at the age of 66.

Reed was an exemplary engineer and physicist, an intellectual pioneer, and internationally recognized for his pioneering innovations in nanotechnology. He joined the Yale faculty in 1990 after working at Texas Instruments, where he coined the term "quantum dots" and demonstrated the first quantum dot device. For more than 30 years at Yale, Reed was extremely active and continued his streak of "firsts," including the first conductance measurement of a single molecule, the first single molecule transistor, and the development of CMOS nanowire biosensors. Reed was the author of more than 200 professional publications, 6 books, delivered 75 plenary and over 400 invited talks, and holds 33 U.S. and foreign patents on quantum effect, heterojunction, and molecular devices. He also served as editor in chief of the journals Nanotechnology and Nano Futures, in addition to numerous other editorial and advisory board positions.

“Mark Reed was a visionary device physicist and a forerunner in nanoscience and technology,” said colleague Hong Tang, the Llewellyn West Jones, Jr. Professor of Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics & Physics. “Back in 1980s, he coined the term ‘quantum dots’ to describe tiny nanostructures that exhibit quantum confinement over all three dimensions. Today ‘quantum dots’ are widely exploited in semiconductor lasers, telecommunication devices, biomedical imaging and drug delivery.”

For his continuous novel research output Reed received numerous distinctions, including Fortune Magazine’s "Most Promising Young Scientist," the Kilby Young Innovator Award, the Fujitsu ISCS Quantum Device Award, and the IEEE Pioneer Award in Nanotechnology. He was also named a Fellow of the IEEE, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and the American Physical Society. In addition to his impressive research credentials Reed cared deeply about young researchers, proudly serving as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Electrical Engineering for numerous years and supervising more than 15 Ph.D. students and 14 postdocs.

“Mark's intellectual leadership and selfless devotion to his students and to his department really stood out to me as I entered the role of Dean of SEAS,” said Jeffrey Brock. He clearly felt passionately about the health of the School and worked tirelessly on ensuring that Yale Engineering was known not only for the quality of its research but its curriculum and instruction as well. Mark was also a tireless innovator, bringing to life countless ideas for innovative devices to improve health and human lives. We were made better by his presence, and we will miss him dearly.”

Colleague Jung Han, the William A. Norton Professor in Technological Innovation, said he was always impressed by his Reed’s creativity and imagination.

“I can remember vividly in one meeting he said, ‘rules are meant to be broken!’ to a first-year graduate student,” Han said. “Such an attitude without rigid bounds propelled him to be very successful in quantum, nano, molecular electronics, and bio-electronics. His adventurous spirit in intellectual pursuit was very contagious and inspiring. Mark has been a wonderful colleague and will be greatly missed.”

Reed grew up in Syracuse, New York where he attended the Christian Brothers Academy. He went on to receive his B.A., M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from Syracuse University. Throughout his school years he belonged to chess teams, played football, played the piano, flute and sang in a student band. His success was recognized by his prior educational institutions, receiving both the Christian Brothers Academy Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019 and the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2000 from the Syracuse College of Arts and Science.

Reed enjoyed spending his personal time cooking gourmet meals, traveling, playing golf in a men’s golf league at Tashua Knolls Golf Course.  He continued to be a chess enthusiast and studied professional chess players’ moves to improve his own game. As a trained Divemaster he enjoyed unique dives such as shipwrecks, wall dives, deep dives (including the Blue Hole in Belize) and diving in the Hawaiian Islands. His favorite places to vacation were anywhere he could dive and play golf.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Elizabeth Reed; son Victor Reed, sister Kathy Guiliano and family, and brother Timothy Reed and family.

Friends and colleagues are invited to share memories on Reed’s memorial website.