In combining elements of chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, and economics, chemical engineers find their niche. Their work aims to produce, transform, use, and transport energy and other materials in the most efficient means. You will find this group of professionals in a variety of organizations from academic institutions to healthcare corporations to food processing manufacturers. Additionally, there are chemical engineers in electronics companies, chemical manufacturers, and environmental health and safety industries. In short, they are fundamental members in today's world. These ten outstanding chemical engineers have found unique ways to contribute to the field.
Allen Bard, Ph.D. — Pioneer or Chemical Engineering
A chemist and physicist by trade, Allen Bard contributed greatly to photoelectrochemistry of semiconductor electrodes. Additionally, he co-discovered electrochemical luminescence and developed the electrochemical microscope. Currently, he works at the University of Texas at Austin as the Hackerman-Welch Regents Chair Professor and Director of the Center for Electrochemistry.
Of note, Bard earned his bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York. He went on to receive his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Harvard University. In his time as a researcher and academic, he has published more than 900 scientific paper. He also holds more than 20 patents.
Additionally, Bard is the recipient of the Priestley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Chemistry. Of significant note, he was presented with the National Medal of Science by President Barak Obama, too. The recognition is one of the highest honors in the scientific fields. He was also elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the National Academy of Sciences. The Electrochemical Society also established an award named after him to recognize scientists making important advancements in the field of electrochemical science.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Allen Bard.
Mark Barteau, Ph.D. — Environmentalist and Engineer
From professor at Texas A&M to Vice President for Research at the university, Mark Barteau's contributions to chemical engineering go beyond his expertise. His research looks to discover new ways to increase sustainability via chemical means. He is also actively involved in a study attempting to remove carbon dioxide excess in the environment and to utilize carbon waste streams.
Of note, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Washington University and both his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Stanford University. His prior employment includes directing the Energy Institute and teaching as the DTE Energy Professor of Advanced Energy Research at the University of Michigan.
Interestingly, Barteau is perhaps best known for initiatives he launched at the University of Michigan. These include a comprehensive Battery Fabrication and Characterization User Facility, the University of Michigan Energy Survey, and Beyond Carbon Neutral. The last development attempts to integrate technological, biological, and policy solutions to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations.
In addition to his teaching work and research, Barteau is a member of the National Research Council committee. In the past, he chaired the committee, as well. Currently, he sits on the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology and serves on the Science Advisory Board for the National Institute of Clean and Low-Carbon Energy in China. Ultimately, Barteau is a global scholar who leaves his mark on the world by developing new sustainable models to help preserve our environment.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Mark Barteau.
George Georgiou, Ph.D. — Making Strides in Medicine
As both a chemical engineer and professor at the University of Texas in Austin, George Georgiou's current research works to develop therapeutic proteins and a better understanding of the body’s immune response. Ultimately, his goal is to create drug therapies that more accurately target and treat illnesses.
Notably, he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. He went on to complete his master’s degree and Ph.D. at Cornell University. Georgiou focuses on cancer and HIV treatments along with the body’s overall ability to clear pathogens from its system.
In addition to his academic commitments, Georgiou serves as an elected member with the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. He is also part of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Furthermore, he was named one of the “100 Eminent Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era.”
Georgiou’s chemical engineering research set the groundwork for HIV and cancer treatment. His research has the ability to provide medical professionals with more targeted and accurate therapies for their patients, which would be life-changing for people around the world.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about George Georgiou.
Julio Ottino, Ph.D. — Founder of Chemical Engineering Institutes
The founder of two institutes in the field, Julio Ottino is a professor in and Dean of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University. He founded the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems and launched the Deal Design Insitute. Additionally, he developed the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and helped create the Initiative in Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern.
Interestingly, Ottino was born in Argentina and studied an unusual interdisciplinary blend of art and physical sciences. Later, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. However, his foundational schooling made a lasting impression. He is also an artist and is heavily influenced by the intersection of art, science, and technology.
Ottino’s research is unique because it sets the groundwork for interdisciplinary work in technology, art, and the physical sciences. Understanding the sciences from these unique viewpoints is grounds for a multitude of new discoveries and contributions to the field. His crowing contribution to chemical engineering is his revelation of the connection in chaos, mixing fluids, and opened connections. Moreover, his book, The Kinematics of Mixing: Stretching, Transport and Chaos (published in 1989 and reprinted in 1997), is now a standard in the field.
Beyond his academic commitments, Ottino served on the National Research Council, the National Academy of Engineering, and the International Review of Engineering in the United Kingdom. He also received the Alpha Chi Sigma Award, the William H. Walker Award, and the Fluid Dynamics Prize from the American Physical Society, to name a few. Furthermore, he is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Julio Ottino.
Alice Gast, Ph.D. — Educational Leader and Field Researcher
In addition to serving as the president of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, Alice Gast is a chemical engineer. Her research primarily focuses on understanding the behavior of complex fluids. Of note, her background in academia is long-standing with tenures at Stanford University and MIT. Additionally, she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from Princeton University.
Of note, Gast has not only produced a plethora of research, but she also has written a textbook that is used in universities across the country. She also received awards for her work. Among her top honors are the National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiative in Research, the Colburn Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award, and the Guggenheim and Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship.
In addition to her academic tenures, she served on a variety of committees, including the National Research Council Board on Chemical Science and Technology. She also worked with the Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee. As a member of the chemical engineering community, she is also a member of the AAAS, the American Chemical Society, and the American Physical Society, to name a few.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Alice Gast.
Frances Arnold, Ph.D. — Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Through many leading contributions in the field of protein engineering, Frances Arnold has solidified her impact in the field. Notably, she won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Her work with directed evolution of enzymes and its use to make biofuel, medicine, laundry detergent, and more earned her the honor. Moreover, Arnold was only the fifth woman out of 177 Nobel Laureates to win the prize.
Of note, she completed her undergraduate work at Princeton University. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Arnold also holds an Honorary Doctorate from Dartmouth College. Her research revolutionized the way we understand and utilize enzymes. It also holds major implications in the fields of chemistry, medicine, and environmental conservation.
Beyond the Nobel Prize, Arnold also received a plethora of awards for her research. Her collection includes the Society of Women Engineers’ Achievement Award, the Millennium Technology Prize, the Golden Plate Award, and the Charles Stark Draper Prize. She was also Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Additoinally, she is an Elected and International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Frances Arnold.
Keith Johnston, Ph.D. — Expert on Nanotechnology
The Baird Endowed Chair and Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, Keith Johnston is well-regarded in academia. He is also a Lyondell Chemical Company Faculty Fellow in Engineering. His research intends to understand nanoparticles and nanotechnology from liquid and solid interfaces, energy storage to biomedical imaging, and therapy with biodegradable nanoclusters.
Of note, he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Additionally, Johnston holds many awards. These include serving as a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers and a member of the National Academy Engineering. Additionally, he was a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher/Scholar and a Discover Magazine Awards for Technological Innovation Finalist. He helped discover a variety of nanomaterials including water/carbon dioxide microemulsions, silicon nanowires, and highly active perovskite electrocatalysts and supercapacitors.
Moreover, Johnston's research offers key insights into how to better control and utilize nanotechnology. His work offers implications in the medical world for both the imaging and treatment of cancer. Moreover, it raises the potential for self-administered medication injections. His work also speaks to potential use of metal replacements, oil and gas recovery, electrochemical energy storage, and the ability to better control and understand interfacial properties.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Keith Johnston.
Cato Laurencin, Ph.D., M.D. — Surgeon and Medical Engineer
As both a surgeon and Professor at the University of Connecticut, Cato Laurencin is an avid researcher. His focus is on biomaterials, tissue engineering, nanotechnology, and stem cell technology. This is unique as it aims to understand the implications from both a theoretical viewpoint and first-hand in medical practice. Additionally, Laurencin believes in the importance of mentorship and is a leader in both the chemical engineering and medical worlds.
His academic history includes undergraduate work at Princeton University, M.D. scholarship at Harvard University, and Ph.D. research at MIT. Additionally, he served as the Lillian T. Pratt Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and as Orthopedic Surgeon-in-Chief at the University of Virginia Health System.
Moreover, he is a member of the Institute of Medicine and serves on the editorial board of a plethora of journals. His research was named one of the 50 Greatest Achievements in Science. He, too, was named the IOM Round Table on Evident Based Medicine. Laurencin also won the Nicolas Andry Prize, a lifetime achievement in the profession of surgery.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Cato Laurencin.
Carol Hall, Ph.D. — Making Strides in Medicine
As a chemical engineer researcher, she focuses on molecular simulations. This work focuses on biomolecule and soft material self-assembly along with peptide design algorithms. Her research has implications in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. She is also a Camille Dreyfus Distinguished University Professor at North Carolina State University.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and her Ph.D. from Stony Brook University. Since her college days, she published over 150 research articles. Moreover, she is an AlCHE Fellow and serves with the National Academy of Engineering as an elected member. Additionally, she served on the Executive Board of the National Programming Committee and works on The Computational Molecular Science and Engineering Forum. Of note, Hall also helped create the Industrial Innovation Award.
Her research has helped other scientists better understand the causes and mechanisms of nanoparticle toxicity. It has also contributed to the method for using recombinant fusion tags. It is also useful in the design of peptides, which could detect cardiovascular disease. Hall made grand strides in how we detect disease that will be instrumental in preventative medicine efforts.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Carol Hall.
Alexis Bell, Ph.D. — Theoretical and Experimental Researcher
As a professor at the University of California, Berkley, Alexis Bell conducts a lot of research. His work aims to understand the fundamental relationships between the structure and composition of heterogeneous catalysts and their performance. Additionally, he heads the Alexis Bell Research Group at UC Berkeley. There, along with his research associates, he utilizes both experimental and theoretical methods to understand heterogeneous catalysts.
Of note, he earned his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from MIT. Furthermore, Bell is a recipient of the Curtis W. McGraw Award for Research, the Professional Progress and R.H. Wilhelm Awards, and the Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis. He is also part of the American Association of Engineering Education and the Catalysis Society. Moreover, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Bell also authored over 500 peer-reviewed articles. Moreover, his research is key in better understanding reaction mechanisms and identification of various factors limiting the activity and selectivity of catalysts. The mix of both theoretical and experimental research he produces sets the foundation for further research to come.
Outstanding Chemical Engineer: Read about Alexis Bell.