Professor O’Brien received a BS degree in chemistry from The City University of New York in 1958 and a MS in 1961 in Metallurgy from New York University, College of Engineering. After receiving his Master’s degree he was hired in 1961 by Marquette University as an instructor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. In 1963 he took a leave of absence to pursue a PhD from the University of Michigan in Metallurgical Engineering and Dental Materials that he completed in 1967. He returned to Marquette University in 1967 as an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering and as chair of the Dental Materials Department, School of Dentistry. He was hired in 1970 as an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and was promoted to professor of dentistry in 1973.
Professor O’Brien’s research focus is on esthetic materials, particularly on the esthetic properties of restorative materials including composites and ceramics. He also studies the strengthening mechanisms of ceramics for use as dental crowns and as inlays to replace amalgam restorations.
His work as a researcher earned him numerous awards and honors throughout his career. Most recently he received an Advisory Service Committee Award (2007) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He served on many school, university, national and international committees, most notably as President of the International Association of Dental Research, Dental Materials Group (1975-present). He has been a consultant to the American Dental Association (1967-2010), and a member of the Federal Drug Administration Panel on Dental Materials (2004-2007).
Professor O’Brien received continuous grant funding from 1972 through 2004 from institutions such as the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Dental Research, the Surface Science Laboratory, and Delta Dental. He was the principal investigator of a National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Materials Science Center, and Director of a National Institutes of Health training grant in biomaterials. He has 106 publications, many in high impact peer-reviewed dental and basic science journals. He served as a contributor to several textbooks and as editor of a major textbook currently in its 4th edition (2008) and has four U.S. patents.
William J. O’Brien, PhD, professor of dentistry in the School of Dentistry, retired from active faculty status on April 30, 2010.