Robert C. Cammarata II, longtime Hopkins professor, dies

Dr. Cammarata was co-founder of NanoDirect LLC. and was the company's chief scientific officer.

Robert C. Cammarata II, a professor of materials science and engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, who had also served as department chairman, died Jan. 13 of cancer at his Columbia home.

He was 58.

"Bob was the best colleague I could ever have hoped for," said Dr. Jonah Erlebacher, head of the department of materials science and engineering at Johns Hopkins. "He was a serious deep-thinking scientist and a central hub in our department. He was a really great guy."

"He was a member of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, an insightful scientist, a talented teacher, a visionary entrepreneur, a mentor to students and colleagues and a leader in the Johns Hopkins community," T.E. "Ed" Schlesinger, dean of Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering, wrote in an email announcing Dr. Cammarata's death.

The son of Robert C. Cammarata, an educator, and Martha Hecker, a psychologist, Robert Charles Cammarata II was born in Huntington, N.Y., and raised in Seaford, N.Y., and Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

After graduating in 1974 from Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., he received a bachelor's degree in 1979 in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Cammarata received a master's degree in 1980 and a doctorate in 1985 in applied physics, both from Harvard University.

From 1985 to 1987, he was a post-doctoral associate in the department of materials science and engineering at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., and the Thomas J. Watson Research Center at International Business Machines in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Dr. Cammarata joined the Whiting School of Engineering faculty in 1987 as an assistant professor in the department of materials science and engineering, and held a second appointment in the department of mechanical engineering.

In 1992, he was promoted to associate professor in the department, and five years later, to full professor. He chaired the department of materials science and engineering from 2003 to 2008.

Dr. Stephen L. Farias, who obtained his doctorate under Dr. Cammarata's supervision, recently became a business partner when the two established the technology firm, NanoDirect LLC, in 2014.

"When I was planning to come to Hopkins in 2007, a graduate student told me that [Dr. Cammarata] was 'one of the smartest guys that I would ever meet.' He could be the old stereotype faculty member who sometimes became the absent-minded professor, but he was absolutely brilliant,'" said Dr. Farias, a Charles Village resident.

"He was really great and funny and, as a teacher, he was very good at taking complex thoughts and making them accessible to students. It was a real talent of his," Dr. Farias said.

"Some professors would not take questions from students who were not in their class but that was not the case with Bob. You could ask him questions and he spent many extra hours with students," he said. "He was that kind of teacher. He wanted to help students learn."

He had not retired from Hopkins at his death.

Dr. Cammarata's research interests included, according to his curriculum vitae, "synthesis, processing and mechanical behavior of nanostructural materials and thin films."

"We work with stuff that the world is made of," said Dr. Erlebacher. "An example would be making electrical wires that carry electricity more quickly, or making structural materials that were stronger and more durable.

"Making new materials was central to what Bob was about, and he was regarded as a world leader in this area," he said.

In addition to being a co-founder of NanoDirect, he was also the company's chief scientific officer.

"NanoDirect LLC is committed to ushering in a new generation of printed and flexible electronics by enabling scalable manufacturing of highly refined nanoelectronic inks," Dr. Farias wrote in an email.

The longtime Columbia resident was an expert level chess player and a former member of the Boston Chess Club, said his wife of 35 years, Sharka Prokes, a Harvard classmate who is a research scientist.

Dr. Cammarata was an inveterate reader who read widely in the fields of philosophy, history and nonfiction.

"He also liked collecting first edition and antiquarian books as well as toys from his childhood," said Ms. Prokes.

He was also a Baltimore Ravens season ticket holder.

Plans for a memorial service, to be held at Johns Hopkins, are incomplete.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Cammarata is survived by a brother, Ronald Cammarata of Baltimore.

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