WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- A principal scientific expert at the Air Force Research Laboratory was selected as a 2017 Fellow of the American Chemical Society for his outstanding achievements and contributions to science and professional leadership in the field.
Dr. Timothy J. Bunning, Chief Scientist, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, is one of only 65 members of the 157,000 person society to receive this designation this year and one of only a handful of AFRL scientists to ever achieve this honor.
“I am certainly humbled by the recognition and sincerely thank those who felt strongly enough to nominate and advocate for me,” said Bunning. “I’ve spent my entire career in AFRL and love the mission-driven focus of the organization, knowing our work supports the Airmen. I am lucky to be surrounded by the best-of-the-best through the year, and any individual accolade is truly a reflection of this extended team. Any recognition in a peer community reaffirms that our work is of high quality, is peer accepted, and is relevant and important to the field.”
ACS is the world’s largest scientific society, established more than 140 years ago with the goal of transforming lives through the power of chemistry. The organization acts as a catalyst for information sharing, research and education with the aim of advancing chemistry and innovation through career development programs and product and outreach services across the globe.
Unlike many scientific society fellowships, the ACS Fellow honor recognizes members not only for their scientific expertise and professional contributions in the larger peer community but also strongly takes into account the strength of the individual’s volunteer service to the ACS community at large.
In addition to being acknowledged for his advancements to the science surrounding liquid crystal/polymer mixtures, optical sensing and laser beam control and filtering, Bunning is being recognized for more than 20 years of volunteer service to ACS. He has held positions such as Technical Program Chair, Member-at-Large, and Treasurer, and his tireless involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs have helped build the future scientific workforce.
Few achieve the fellow honor, further establishing Bunning as a foremost authority in the field.
“This fellowship for an AFRL scientific leader reaffirms that AFRL is a world-class research and development organization, on par with national labs, global universities and industrial leaders,” said Dr. Richard Vaia, Functional Materials Division Technical Director and ACS Fellow. “Tim’s contributions to the field are exemplary and set a high standard for the organization and community.”
Bunning began his career at AFRL in 1990 as a graduate student sponsored by a doctoral fellowship from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and pursued his doctoral research on-site with AFRL. After graduating and conducting a short post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University, he returned to the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, spending six years as an on-site contractor before transitioning to civil service in 1998.
Quickly establishing himself as a subject matter expert in soft materials, Bunning spent the next few years in diverse positions across the directorate, honing his technical expertise while building skills in management and leadership. His titles ranged from in-house researcher to project engineer, team lead, branch chief, division technical director and division chief.
In 2015, Bunning was named a Senior Technologist for the Air Force, one of only 27 in the service, equivalent in rank to a brigadier general and member of the senior executive service corps. He also assumed the position of Chief Scientist at the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate where he leads and mentors a diverse technical staff of more than 1000, working all materials classes across the technical and manufacturing maturity levels for a variety of Air Force capabilities.
“The people of this laboratory make it special. The most satisfaction I have day-to-day is knowing I played a part in the recruiting and mentoring of a bunch of them. What we leave behind as scientists and engineers in terms of the people is the most important thing we can do. Part of that is the growth and development of them as practitioners within a technical peer community,” said Bunning.
Bunning’s contributions to the scientific field through his career is at the cornerstone of his recognition with the ACS fellowship. To date, he has more than 260 refereed publications, 18 patents and has given or supported more than 700 technical peer community presentations. He is active in a number of professional societies, on the editorial boards of numerous journals and serves on the external advisory boards of numerous entities balanced across a unique, multidisciplinary technology landscape. He was previously recognized as a Fellow by the American Physical Society, International Society for Optics and Photonics, Optical Society of America, Materials Research Society, Royal Society of Chemistry and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Though his career has led to many scientific achievements, Bunning is dedicated to the mission of the ACS, maintaining an active leadership role in the organization over the years. He was conferred the ACS Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering (PMSE) Fellowship in 2013 and recently became the PMSE Treasurer, the first office in the ACS organizational executive leadership sequence. As a chief advocate for the society, Bunning has helped attract a new generation of scientists to the organization, ensuring a strong base for multidisciplinary science problems of the future. He has also coordinated countless symposia on behalf of the organization, uniting hundreds worldwide on behalf of science.
While his accolade list continues to grow, Bunning stresses that the most rewarding aspect of his profession is the opportunities he has to mentor and work with young scientists across the spectrum.
“People, people, people-- recruit good ones, grow them, and get out of the way. This recognition is a testament to those that have lived and contributed to the journey with me through the years.”