Eltoukhy Family Innovation Lab

Eltoukhy Family Innovation Lab set to empower
next generation of materials science and
engineering students
As the world seeks sustainable solutions to reduce
carbon emissions, eliminate environmental waste
and improve human health, the need for innovative
thinking in materials science has never been
Titans of industry and policymakers look to
materials scientists and engineers to pioneer longlasting
batteries to power electric vehicles, design
polymers and electronic materials that are easily
recyclable, and discover new biomaterials that
enable life-saving medical treatments.

With the creation of the Eltoukhy Family Innovation
Lab, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s
Department of Materials Science and Engineering

(MatSE) will be positioned to do just that, equipping the next generation of material scientists
and engineers with the know-how to provide solutions that address global problems. The
Eltoukhy Family’s gift will provide students a more collaborative work environment with plenty
of room to spark interdisciplinary research.

“The lab space will help us achieve a competitive edge by attracting the most promising
scholars by giving them team-oriented, hands-on learning experiences in a dedicated area,”
said Nancy Sottos, Swanlund Chair of Materials Science and Engineering, Center for Advanced
Study Professor and MatSE department head. “Developing these open collaborative spaces also
allows us to introduce modern concepts in materials design and sustainability to our current
students and greatly enhance the materials education for our future students.”

The lab will be created by renovating existing space on the first floor of the Materials Science
and Engineering Building (MSEB). It will be named after Atef Eltoukhy, a Grainger Engineering
Campaign Cabinet member and MatSE alumnus who earned a doctorate in metallurgical
engineering in 1978, and his family whose generosity has kickstarted this multi-phase building
project. The Eltoukhys’ gift marks the largest non-planned gift commitment from a household
to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering during the With Illinois campaign.

“This truly generous commitment from the Eltoukhy family will ensure that our students are
equipped to become leaders in start-up companies, industry, academia, national labs and
more,” Sottos said. “We can’t wait to see how these strategic enhancements enable our
students to pioneer next-generation technology.”

Atef and his wife, Fofa, chose to give this
generous gift to the department because of how
well Grainger Engineering prepared Atef for his
future. His career has spanned multiple sectors
which has included becoming a professor at the
University of Southern California, a scientist at
IBM, an entrepreneur and co-founder of two
companies that he brought public in Silicon Valley,
and a financial analyst and money market

“It was important for my family and I to pay back
the gift of education. What you learn at Grainger
Engineering extends beyond the science and
technology; is the critical thinking and problem
solving,” Eltoukhy said. “Because the University of
Illinois provided me with such a great education,
we wanted to say, ‘thank you’ in this way,” he

Phase one of this project will bring collaborative
workspaces for MatSE faculty and students,
providing maker spaces and advanced computing
workstations for digital design. This renovation
will increase students’ access to instructional labs
and lab equipment which weren’t available

These spaces will be equipped with design-centric tools, including multi-material 3D printers,
digital microscopes, scanners, and advanced analysis and modeling software.

Not only will this gift help prepare students with the tools that MatSE’s current undergraduate
instruction labs were lacking, but it will also begin to help reimagine the Senior Design Capstone
course, which allows students to maximize their experience, test their ideas and bring to life the
theories they’ve learned in their classes.

This first phase also opens a world of opportunity for outreach events and programs, like
MatSE’s GEMS Camp (Gender Equality in Materials Science), where 10th through 12th-grade high
school students explore materials science with hands-on STEM activities at the week-long

camp. “I (attended a camp) like this in high school,
and that’s the reason why I got interested in the
field,” said Jessica Krogstad, camp coordinator
and MatSE associate professor. “It was really
captivating, and it was exciting to see all of these
different disciplines coming together. So we really
work hard to try and demonstrate how diverse
material science is.”

Additional renovation phases will continue to
expand the innovation space on the first floor
and have the potential to add up to 1,400
additional square feet of dedicated space for
student design activities.

Every contribution to MatSE makes a different.
Eltoukhy urges others to pay it forward to help
transform the MatSE educational experience and
prepare our future leaders.

“I believe we have a duty to be good stewards of our success and share what we have earned
with society, with those that educated us, and the people that made our successes possible. I
would encourage others who can give to find ways to make what they have earned useful to
other people. It’s important to support current and future materials science and engineering
students and help prepare them to become better scientists and engineers that make positive
contributions in their areas of specialization.”