In Memoriam: Clifton Chancey

Dr. C. Clifton “Cliff” Chancey III, 58, passed away Saturday, Oct. 19 in Cedar Falls.

Dean Joel Haack stated,

“Cliff was a strong academic leader. His interests extended beyond his department to include service to the university, being involved in the recent presidential search and the NCAA review of UNI’s athletic program. He also provided service to the national discipline, creating the American Journal of Undergraduate Research and serving as an officer in the science honorary society Sigma Xi. And, he was involved in our community, supporting political candidates and leading the campus portion of the United Way campaign. Personally, he was kind, generous, and patient, with a strong sense of justice. He was also well-rounded in his interests, enjoying, for example, Baroque opera, classical theater, and fine dining. I will miss him.”

Dr. Cliff Chancey received his B.S. at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1977 and his M.A. (1980) and Ph.D. (1985) at Johns Hopkins University. From 1985-1988, he held a postdoctoral research position at Oxford University in England. He went on to hold academic positions at Amherst College and Purdue University-Calumet. He held a Senior Visiting Fellowship in Theoretical Physics at Oxford in 1996. In 2001, he joined the faculty at UNI as professor and head of the physics department.

A referee for a number of journals, he authored 27 research papers and co-authored (with M.C.M. O’Brien) The Jahn-Teller Effect in C60 and Other Icosahedral Complexes (Princeton U. Press, 1997). A Life Member of Sigma Xi since 1990, Chancey was also a member of the Iowa Academy of Science, American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers, Council on Undergraduate Research, Biophysical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Mathematical Association of America and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. He served Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, in many capacities at the local, regional and national levels.

A theoretical physicist, his interests included atomic and molecular theory, biophysical modeling and neuroscience, mathematical physics, and geophysical modeling. His most recent atomic and molecular research centered on explaining the electronic and vibrational structure of Buckminsterfullerene, the soccer ball-shaped molecule C60. He studied the physics of sand movement in sand dunes and the electrical and physical processes involved in neural transmission. Much of his research was directed toward providing a theory for sodium and potassium channel gating in excitable cells like neurons.

In a letter to the university, President Bill Ruud and Executive Vice President and Provost Gloria Gibson said,

“Chancey had significant accomplishments and positively impacted the lives of numerous students, faculty and staff. One of his many successful scholarly efforts was launching and coordinating all the Professional Science Masters programs at UNI. He was also a true public servant, as he chaired several United Way campaigns on campus, and coordinated a science education partnership with the Center for Urban Education in Waterloo.

“We will always remember Cliff for his kindness, humility, and his devotion to academe. His research, teaching and service to the discipline of physics will impact many future Physics researchers, teachers and scholars.”