Dr. James Logan Merz, who was a research scientist at Bell Laboratories before coming to UC Santa Barbara, where he was a professor and chair of the Department Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Associate Dean for Research of the College of Engineering, and Associate Vice Chancellor of the university, died peacefully at his home in East Dennis, Massachusetts, on June 22, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. Merz, who was 86, is survived by his wife, Rose-Marie, four children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Merz received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1959 and his PhD from Harvard University in 1966 before working at Bell Laboratories. Nobel laureate Herbert Kroemer recruited Merz to UCSB from there after the Bell breakup. Merz eventually left UCSB to return to Notre Dame as the Freimann Chair of Electrical Engineering, and served as Vice President for Research, Dean of the Graduate School, and Interim Dean of the College of Engineering.
“I was deeply saddened to hear of Jim's passing,” said Chancellor Henry Yang. “I first met him when he was in transition from UC Santa Barbara to return to his alma mater to become the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at Notre Dame; I was just coming from Indiana, and he was returning to Indiana. He came back to visit our campus frequently, and he shared with me his vision for the university. He was a close colleague and friend of Professor [Emeritus] Herbert Kroemer, and Herb shared with me about their vision of developing III-V compound semiconductors instead of silicon semiconductors, which became a frontier area of strength for our campus, resulting in two Nobel Prizes , for Professor Kroemer and Professor Shuji Nakamura. Dr. Merz was a brilliant researcher — a true pioneer in his field — as well as an admired leader, colleague, and friend. We miss him and are forever grateful for his legacy and impact.”
“Jim Merz was a leader building up the compound semiconductor research effort at UC Santa Barbara,” said John Bowers, the Fred Kavli Chair in Nanotechnology and director of UC Santa Barbara’s Institute for Energy Efficiency. “His vision and his effectiveness at recruiting transformed the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and provided the basis for the Electronic Materials portion of the Materials Department when it was formed.”
Yukina Warner, Corporate Affairs and Patent Officer for the Solid State Lighting and Energy Electronics Center (SSLEEC) at UCSB, remembered Professor Merz as “such a nice man.” He served as director of UCSB's Compound Semiconductor Research Center (CO-SEARCH) and was recognized as one of six major UCSB donors at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the cleanroom in Engineering II (now home to the SSLEEC labs).
A memorial at Notre Dame is being planned for a future date.