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Message from the Chair


December 10, 2018

When I took the helm of the department five years ago, there was much I wanted to accomplish. Chief among this was to build on our wonderful “ChemE family” tradition to foster a culture of inclusion, innovation and altruism: a culture that would run deep and wide, and one that would support every chemical engineering student, staff and faculty member on their journey to achieve their highest potential. With my term as chair coming to a close at the end of December, I am proud of where we stand and amazed by what we have collectively accomplished.

It all starts with people. Five outstanding new hires have added vibrancy and momentum to our ranks. (The department will soon have 27 faculty — the largest it’s ever been!) Our faculty has retooled the undergraduate and graduate curriculum to expose students to crucial societal issues such as sustainability, emerging opportunities such as data science, and alternative career paths such as entrepreneurship — all through the lens of chemical and molecular engineering. Our students are more numerous, more productive, and more engaged in department life than ever. Our professors continue to be recognized with the highest honors nationally and abroad, and our staff works tirelessly at improving infrastructure and processes.

Thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends, we have established new scholarships and fellowships to support our most deserving students, and we have added six named professorships to an already impressive roster of endowed and term positions. (Over 60 percent of our faculty now holds a named professorship or chair, a record in the College of Engineering). Also with the help of our alumni, we have transformed how we teach, do research and conduct business in Benson Hall. We’ve established shared instrumentation facilities and graduate student offices, and created new teaching, computing, meeting and advising space. What’s more, the department’s exciting strategic initiative in data science is moving full steam ahead with a new M.S. program that will be offered for the first time in fall 2019.

This summer, a group of us in Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, and Biochemistry, with colleagues at partner institutions, won a $10.75 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to create an exciting new interdisciplinary Energy Frontier Research Center: the Center for the Science of Synthesis Across Scales (CSSAS), of which I serve as director. While I will miss my role as chair, I look forward to bringing CSSAS online and to position it for scientific success. It has been a privilege to serve as the eighth chair of Chemical Engineering, and an honor to lead this extraordinary community. I look forward to Dean Bragg naming my successor and to helping new leadership take the department to the next plane of excellence.

— François Baneyx, Department Chair and Charles W.H. Matthaei Professor