Franco Cerrina, 62, chair of the College of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering department, was found dead Monday morning in a laboratory on the fifth floor of the Photonics Center. A staff member discovered Cerrina’s body lying on the floor of the lab at about 9:30 a.m. A faculty member called the Boston University Police Department, which contacted Boston Police.
Boston Police spokesperson Jill Flynn says officers arrived at the scene at 9:35 a.m. The death has been ruled “noncriminal” by the Boston department. “It is not a homicide,” Flynn says.
Scott Pare, Boston University deputy director of public safety, says BU Police are working with Boston Police in investigating the death.
President Robert A. Brown says Cerrina will be sorely missed. “Although he had only been with us for less than two years,” Brown says, “Franco had already distinguished himself by his intellect, leadership, and warmth to all who had the chance to know him.”
Kenneth Lutchen, dean of ENG, says that Cerrina was the kind of person who would help to build his department and his college. “I feel very sad for him and for his family,” says Lutchen. “I also feel sad for the faculty and the entire department.
“There is no evidence that this death had anything to do with safety issues with his lab or this building.”
David Castañón, an ENG professor and former interim chair of the electrical and computer engineering department, says Cerrina had plans to travel on Tuesday. “I was shocked to hear the news,” Castañón says. “I literally dropped my books.”
Bennett Goldberg, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of physics, says Cerrina was a great catch for BU. “He had great experience in many fields, great integrity, and he was incredibly personable,” Goldberg says. He recalls often seeing Cerrina in the gym in the morning, where Cerrina would talk about the need to stay in shape.
Wayne Rennie, director of the electrical and computer engineering department, describes Cerrina, who rode his bike to work from Cambridge, as a “wonderful, fantastic, and gentle person.”
“He always had time for you,” says Rennie. “He always had time for your problems.”
Franco Cerrina, who had “distinguished himself by his intellect, leadership, and warmth to all who had the chance to know him,” says BU President Robert A. Brown, will be sorely missed.
Before coming to BU as electrical and computer engineering chair in August 2008, Cerrina taught for 24 years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he was the Lynn H. Matthias Professor in Engineering and director of the university’s Center for NanoTechnology, a research organization specializing in advanced semiconductor lithography and nanofabrication. At Wisconsin, Cerrina’s research focused on the application of techniques developed for semiconductor nanofabrication to biological problems.
Cerrina, who earned a PhD in physics at the University of Rome in 1974, held 16 patents and was a cofounder of five companies. He had more than 300 reviewed publications and was a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, SPIE, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends. – Nanovip