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Sayers Lectures

The Dale E. Sayers lecture series presents to a general audience popular talks made to celebrate the scientific career and accomplishments of Professor Sayers. The series is sponsored by the Department of Physics and is given in the eponymous Sayers Auditorium in Riddick Hall at NC State University.


Dale E. Sayers came to NC State in 1976 where he directed a wide-ranging research program and taught courses at all levels from general undergraduate physics to advanced graduate courses. He continued as a contributing citizen at the university, national and international level until his untimely death in 2004.

Born on November 29, 1943, in Seattle, Washington, Dale earned his bachelor's degree in 1966 in physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and his master's and doctoral degrees, both in physics, in 1972 at the University of Washington, Seattle. His PhD research, completed in 1971, centered on developing a new local-structure determination technique named "extended x-ray absorption fine structure" which came to be known as EXAFS.

Sayers’ dissertation work led to the publication of the first EXAFS paper, in 1971. With it, he opened up a new field of research, the study of materials using x-ray absorption spectroscopy. The proliferation of synchrotron storage rings worldwide today can be attributed in no small part to his seminal work. Indeed, on many of these enormous facilities today, more than half of the research is dedicated to studies based on EXAFS.

As a Professor, Sayer's work using synchrotron radiation led him into a broad variety of research topics including investigations of amorphous materials, biophysical specimens, contaminated soils, nanoscale structures, and cancerous tissues. Most currently, he was affiliated with a team that discovered a new x-ray technique, called diffraction-enhanced imaging that may become a new tool for mammography, osteoarthritis investigations and bone density studies. A quintessential collaborator with a magnetic personality, Professor Sayers forged relationships that bred new and innovative research across a broad spectrum of colleagues and disciplines.

Professor Sayers earned a number of national and international awards including the Bertram Warren Award of the American Crystallographic Association; the Centennial Scholar Award of Case Western Reserve University; and the Outstanding Achievement Award of the International XAFS society. At NC State, Sayers was honored with the University Libraries faculty Award and the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Research Award. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and held positions as visiting professor/scientist at several international institutions.

An extraordinary man, Professor Sayers was generous and witty, as well as a great scientist. He was a highly visible synchrotron radiation user for over 20 years. He touched the lives of many in this world-wide scientific community and was keenly interested in furthering the intellectual growth and scientific careers of those around him, in particular the growth of students and young scientists. The Dale E. Sayers Graduate Fellowship Endowment at North Carolina State University reflects his passion for mentoring and his love of institutions of higher education.