In 2014, Dr. George Wicks will be inducted into the World Academy of Ceramics in Montecatini Terme, Italy, after a long and successful career. Later in 2014, he will also be honored by receiving the Distinguished Life Member Award of The American Ceramic Society, considered the “most prestigious award” in the more than 100-year old organization.
Dr. Wicks recently retired after working 40 years, from the Savannah River National Laboratory, at the position of Consulting Scientist, the highest technical level in the organization. He now serves as an independent Consultant with his own company, works with the Applied Research Center in SC spinning out new hi-tech businesses, and also is Adjunct Prof. at GA Health Sciences Univ./GA Regents Univ. For four decades, Dr. Wicks has been involved in many areas of science and engineering, including vitrification and management of high-level radioactive wastes, in which he is considered an international expert. He has also been heavily involved in many other areas and disciplines, including environmental remediation, sensor development, corrosion of materials, hydrogen storage systems, alternative and renewable energy, nuclear disarmament activities, C&B agents, hybrid microwave technology, and a variety of new medical initiatives.
Since receiving his advanced degrees from Harvard Univ. and MIT, Dr. Wicks has worked extensively in many areas of ceramics and glass science during his career. Many of his contributions have involved the nuclear community and include development of the first ‘Slurry Feeding System’ for vitrification of the 34 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in the more than billion dollar Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF), now in production. He has also been very active in leaching studies of nuclear glasses and in assessing chemical durability of waste products and systems. He is co-author of the SRL Kinetic Leachability Model [Wallace-Wicks Model] describing leaching behavior of the complex 40-component SRS waste glass system and also, he designed, developed and coordinated the first major international in-situ testing program in the US, involving burial of simulated nuclear waste systems. Dr. Wicks is also co-inventor of Sol-Gel Indicators, a new class of composite materials that can be fabricated into sensors, and integrated into important fiber optic, analytical monitoring devices for environmental measurements and other uses, including medical applications. He is co-inventor of Sol-Gel Metal Hydrides and Porous-Walled Hollow Glass Microspheres, composites which have the ability to store unusually large amounts of hydrogen, both reversible and very effective and for the glass microspheres, also providing a unique drug delivery tool. The team and its microsphere technology received an R&D 100 Award in 2011 and in 2012, was voted “Top Honors” at the NNSA Symposium on “Discovery and Innovation.” He is also co-inventor of a new Hybrid Microwave Technology, with the ability to remediate hazardous components and reclaim reusable metals, and also conduct decontamination of law enforcement equipment and materials, while retaining forensic signatures.
Dr. Wicks has published a considerable amount of work in various areas, which includes more than 200 publications and 16 patents issued, to date. He also authored or co-authored 7 books and 9 invited chapters in texts and encyclopedias, and served as co-chairman for more than dozen international meetings. He has also served as 2012-11 President of The American Ceramic Society, been on the ACerS Board of Directors, past President of the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers, been a member of the U.S. Materials Review Board and been Adjunct Professor to Clemson University and the University of Florida, as well as serving on Advisory Boards to Clemson, Univ. of SC, USC-Aiken, VA Tech and the GA Health Sciences University. He has also served as a member of the DuPont Corporate Ceramics Board and testified on technical aspects of waste management and weapons dismantlement activities for various committees, including those of the National Academy of Sciences, and served on a NATO team that traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to discuss “Disposal of Weapons Plutonium.” Dr. Wicks also served on various International Scientific Advisory Boards involving radioactive waste management activities in France (CEA) and also the European Communities (EC). He also was the technical lead working with the medical community on a new series of initiatives involving unique technologies developed within the nuclear field, which are now being tailored and applied for uses in the medical field in areas of diagnostics, repair/ replacement of body parts, and therapy/ treatment of a variety of medical conditions.
Some of his many awards and honors include the South Carolina Academy of Science/SC Governor’s Award for Excellence in Scientific Research, Alpha Sigma Mu International Honorary Society’s “Distinguished Life Member” Award, SRS Career Achievement Award, CNTA Distinguished Scientist of the Year, R&D 100 Award, the Joan Hodges Queaneau Palladium Medal, George Westinghouse Gold Corporate Award, two Westinghouse Signature Awards as well as the Westinghouse Innovators Award, and ACerS awards include the Greaves-Walker Award, Arthur L. Friedberg Memorial Lecturer, and the D.T. Rankin Award.
He has also contributed to the founding of several important forums for ACerS. About 25 years ago he helped initiate the first major International Symposium on Nuclear Waste Management sponsored by the Nuclear, Glass and Cements Divisions of ACerS, which continued for many years. At the opening session (and given in the published proceedings) he read a letter received from the White House….”I welcome the opportunity to extend my greetings to members and guests of The American Ceramic Society…..the issues before your organization are of the utmost importance to this nation and the entire world”…..signed by then President Ronald Reagan. Also, more recently in 2008, along with his colleague and Past President of ASM International Jack Simon, they formed another new kind of interdisciplinary symposium called MCARE (Materials Challenges in Alternative and Renewable Energy). This represents the first time that all materials disciplines/Societies had worked together on a meeting of this type. Co-organizers were ACerS (ceramics/ glasses), ASM International (metals/ composites) and SPE (plastics/polymers), and also endorsed by other major groups such as MRS and SAMPE. This meeting has grown over the years and in 2013, was held for the first time outside the US in China and 2014, involved ‘passing the torch’ to new and outstanding colleagues, now chairing these important meetings.