Della M. Roy, ACerS Distinguished Life Member and FACerS, died March 27, 2021 at age 94. She was a Pennsylvania State University emeritus professor of materials science, founding member of the Penn State Materials Research Laboratory (now the Materials Research Institute), and research professor at Arizona State University.
“Della was one of our true pioneers in materials,” says Clive Randall, FACerS, director of MRI and distinguished professor of materials science and engineering. “Her research gave her many accolades in the past, but it also laid down the foundation for the development of lower-CO2 emission production methods of cements, which are critical to creating future infrastructure with lower climate impact.”
Roy was born Nov. 3, 1926, as Della Marie Martin in Merrill, Oregon. After graduating high school at age 16, she enrolled at the University of Oregon where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1947. From there, she went to Penn State, receiving her master’s degree in minerology in 1949.
During her graduate work, she shared an office and lab with fellow graduate student, Rustum Roy, who also became a significant figure in materials research as a Penn State professor and founding member of the MRL. They married in June 1948, a marriage that spanned 62 years until Rustum’s death in 2010.
Roy was known for her work in advanced concrete materials for pavements, chemically bonded cements, ancient cement-based building materials and high-temperature cements for geothermal wells. Her patents range from porous biomaterials for bone repair to methods for radioactive storage. Other areas of research include chemically bonded ceramics, crystal growth and crystal chemistry, and phase equilibria.
Della Roy’s Penn State career inspired other female scientists, and her work led to a series of pioneering moments for women in STEM. In 1987, she was the first female materials scientist and the first Penn State woman to be inducted into the National Academy of Engineering. With Rustum Roy’s induction into the NAE in 1973, the Roys were the first spousal couple to be so honored.
In 1971 she co-founded the journal, Cement and Concrete, the first in its field, and served as its editor until 2005. She authored more than 400 publications and was the first woman elected to the World Academy of Ceramics.
She received the ACerS Jeppson Medal in 1982 and the Cements Division L.E. Copeland Award in 1987. She was an honorary member of the Institute for Concrete Technology and a recipient of the first annual Golden Goose Award, given by Congress to honor federally funded research leading to major breakthroughs in scientific, technological, medial, public health, and other fields of benefit to the public.
The legacy of the Roys as leaders in science continues through the Rustum and Della Roy Innovation in Materials Research Award at Penn State to honor interdisciplinary materials research that yields innovative and unexpected results. Three awards are granted annually—two graduate student awards and one postdoctoral or junior faculty award. Memorial contributions to the award fund may be made to Penn State’s Office of Donor and Member Services.
Roy is survived by two sons, their wives, and two grandchildren.
Adapted from a Penn State Materials Research Institute obituary by Jamie Calvin Oberdick published April 9, 2021. https://www.mri.psu.edu/mri/news/penn-state-mourns-loss-della-roy