​B.E.S. Materials Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 1984​​M.S. Materials Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 1986Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 1989Post-Doc ​University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, 1988-90

"The research my students and I do seeks to reduce the effects of corrosion damage on safety, reliability and cost in a wide range of applications."

Robert G. Kelly, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Robert G. Kelly has been conducting research on the corrosion of metals for the past 30 years. After completing his Ph.D. studies at Johns Hopkins University (1989), he spent two years at the Corrosion and Protection Centre at the University of Manchester (UK) as a Fulbright Scholar and as an NSF/NATO Post-doctoral Fellow. He joined the faculty of the University of Virginia in 1990. His past work has included work on the corrosion of metals and alloys in marine environments, non-aqueous and mixed solvents as well as stress-corrosion cracking and other forms of localized corrosion. His present work includes studies of the electrochemical and chemical conditions inside localized corrosion sites in various alloy systems, corrosion in aging aircraft, development of embeddable corrosion microinstruments, microfabrication methods to probe the fundamentals of localized corrosion, and multi-scale modeling of corrosion processes. He has co-authored over one hundred papers, presented fifty invited talks and is the Co-Director of the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering at UVA. He was selected as the recipient of the 1997 A. B. Campbell Award for the best paper by an author 35 years old or younger and the 1999 H. H. Uhlig Award for young corrosion educators from the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, and the H.H. Uhlig Award from the Electrochemical Society. He is also a Fellow of NACE International. He has won several teaching awards while at UVA, including an All University Teaching Award in 2004. He was the 2001 recipient of the Robert T. Foley Award from the National Capital Section of the Electrochemical Society. He has rendered technical assistance to the NRC and DOE concerning the Yucca Mountain Project, the USAF Aging Aircraft Program, the NASA Safety and Engineering Center, and the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial design team. He has supervised 20 Ph.D. students to completion as well as 18 M.S. students.


  • H.H. Uhlig Award of the Corrosion Division of the Electrochemical Society 2016
  • Appointment as AT&T Professor of Engineering Chair 2013
  • Sigma Gamma Tau Outstanding Professor of Aerospace Engineering 2012
  • University Academy of Teaching at UVA 2011
  • Fellow, the Electrochemical Society 2010
  • Inaugural Best Paper Award in Corrosion J., NACE International (with J. Scully, N. Taillert, F. Preseul-Moren, M. Goldman) 2010
  • Distinguished Service Award from NACE International (CESE) 2009
  • Rodman Scholars Outstanding Professor Award 2007
  • Fellow, National Association of Corrosion Engineers 2007
  • Harold S. Morton Award for Undergraduate Teaching (SEAS/UVA) 2007
  • NASA Engineering and Safety Center Group Achievement Award 2006
  • UVA MSE Undergraduate Teaching Award 2005
  • All-University Teaching Award 2004
  • Rodman Scholars Outstanding Professor Award 2004
  • Robert T. Foley Award from Natl Capital Section of ECS 2001
  • UVA MSE Undergraduate Teaching Award 2000
  • H. H. Uhlig Award (NACE International) - young educator award 1999
  • A. B. Campbell Award (NACE International) – best paper by young author (< 35 y) 1997
  • University Teaching Fellow 1996-97
  • Rodman Scholars Award for Excellence in Teaching 1996
  • NSF/NATO Post‑Doctoral Fellowship 1989‑90
  • Academic Year - Fulbright Scholarship 1988‑89
  • Achievement Reward for College Scientists 1987
  • NSF Graduate Fellowship 1984-86

Research Interests

  • Corrosion and Electrochemical Sciences and Engineering
  • Surface and Interface Science and Engineering
  • Metallurgy
  • Materials Characterization
  • Computational Materials Science
  • Structures and Mechanics (Sustainable Infrastructure Systems)
  • Advanced materials for transportation applications

In the News

  • U.Va. Engineer Rob Kelly Contributes to Design of Pentagon Memorial

    In the late summer of 2003, Rob Kelly, a University of Virginia professor of materials science and engineering, was asked by former Engineering School dean Ed Starke to sit in on a meeting with the designers of a planned memorial to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon.

    Kelly, like Starke, has extensive knowledge of the properties of metals. The designers had some questions about corrosion.

    "I was startled at how young they were," Kelly said of the designers, Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman. "They looked like they were just out of college."

    They were, in fact, just out of graduate school at Columbia University, and had recently won an international competition to design the memorial. Their design beat out about 1,100 other entries submitted by architects from around the world.

    Read More
  • UVA Researchers Accelerate Corrosion to Predict Lifespans of Vital Parts

    Robert Kelly has a time machine. Kelly, AT&T Professor of Engineering in the University of Virginia’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is able to launch pieces of metal into the future, accelerating their aging through corrosion, the degradation of materials.

    He did this recently for Rolls-Royce, subjecting small, curved, ceramic-coated jet engine compressor blades to an aggressive salt spray test that accelerates the damage processes they would face in an airplane turbine.

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  • Performance of Additive Manufacturing and high-entropy alloys

    One obstacle to widespread use of 3-D printed metals is the effect on materials’ microstructure given the continuous welding inherent in the process. This is particularly an issue with aluminum alloys, but it is also a factor in austenitic stainless steels, which are subject to grain boundary sensitization and subsequent intergranular corrosion. Not all of the consequences of these welds can be determined through mechanical process testing that has been the focus of most work elsewhere, but are only revealed over time. Because of the department’s world-class research programs in time-dependent processes—corrosion, fatigue and oxidation—that the Office of Naval Research called on Professor Rob Kelly to evaluate the corrosion susceptibility of 3-D printed 316L and 625 corrosion resistant alloys, both mainstays of marine construction. Members of Kelly’s lab have already found evidence that parts printed with 316L exhibit sensitization in the as-printed condition, something that does not occur with material made using standard processes.

    Read More

Selected Publications

  • “Evaluation of the Maximum Pit Size Model on Stainless Steel under Atmospheric Conditions,” J Electrochem. Soc., 161 (8) E1-E9 (2014). ABS M. T. Woldemedhin, M. E. Shedd, R. G. Kelly
  • "Effect of relative humidity on corrosion of steel under sea salt aerosol proxies II: MgCl2, Seawater," J. Electrochem Soc., 161 (10) C460-C470 (2014). ABS E. Schindelholz, B.E. Risteen, R. G. Kelly
  • “Marine Aerosol Drop Size Effects on the Corrosion Behavior of Low Carbon Steel and High Purity Iron,” J. Electrochem. Soc., 161 (14) C580-C586 (2014) B. E. Risteen, E. Schindelholz, R. G. Kelly
  • “Experimental and Modeling Studies on Mass Transport and Electrochemical Factors Influencing Stainless Steel Pitting and Repassivation,” Corrosion J., Vol. 70, No. 12, pp. 1172-1174. (2014). ABS J. Srinivasan, R. G. Kelly
  • "The Use of a Sintered Ag/AgCl Electrode as Both Reference and Counter Electrode for Electrochemical Measurements in Thin Film Electrolytes", ECS Electrochemistry Letters, 4 (10) C1-C3 (2015). ABS P. Khullar, J. V. Badilla, R. G. Kelly
  • “A High-Throughput Artificial Pit Technique to Measure Kinetic Parameters for Pitting Stability,” Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 162 (14) C725-C731 (2015). doi: 10.1149/2.0281514jes J. Srinivasan, M. J. McGrath, R. G. Kelly
  • “Overview of Intergranular Corrosion Mechanisms, Phenomenological Observations, and Modeling,” Corr. J, 72(2), 198-220 (2016). ABS M. L. C. Lim, J. R. Scully, R. G. Kelly
  • "Crack Chemistry Control of Intergranular SCC in Sensitized Al-Mg," Corr. J, 72(2), 242-263 (2016). ABS C. B. Crane, R. G. Kelly, R. P. Gangloff
  • “Model to Predict Intergranular Corrosion Propagation in Three Dimensions in AA5083-H131,” Materials and Design, 96, 131-14. ABS M. L. C. Lim, R. Matthews, M. Oja, R. Tryon, R. G. Kelly, J. R. Scully

Courses Taught

  • MSE/EVSC 2010 Materials That Shape Our Civilization Spring 2016, Spring 2017