UB's Ruckenstein Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Release Date: April 25, 2012

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Ruckenstein's theoretical and experimental research has changed scientists' understanding of the fundamental phenomena of chemical processes.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Eli Ruckenstein, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus at UB and one of the world's most influential chemical engineers, has been elected to the 2012 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary societies.

A professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Ruckenstein has been a UB faculty member since 1973. He retired from the university in January.

Since 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has been recognizing "thinkers and doers" from each generation; past members include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein. Academy President Leslie C. Berlowitz describes election to the academy as "both an honor for extraordinary accomplishment and a call to serve," noting that the academy is a leading center for independent policy research.

The new class of members will be inducted during a ceremony in October at the academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

"This is a highly prestigious--and very fitting--tribute to Eli Ruckenstein's stature and significance as one of the leading scientists of our time," says President Satish K. Tripathi. "His boundless intellectual energy, innovation, creativity and astonishing breadth of scientific knowledge distinguish him as one of our most eminent faculty members--at the University at Buffalo, across the nation and within the academy worldwide.

"Not only have Dr. Ruckenstein's achievements revolutionized the chemical engineering field, but they also have had a profound impact on a wide range of other fields, from applied mathematics and computing to cancer research. He is richly deserving of election to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but truly, he is in a class of his own."

Ruckenstein conducts both theoretical and experimental research that not only has changed scientists' understanding of the fundamental phenomena of chemical processes, but has led to the development of enhanced research methods and new materials.

He was the first UB faculty member to receive the coveted National Medal of Science, considered the U.S. equivalent to the Nobel Prize, which is bestowed on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to knowledge in the chemical, physical, biological, mathematical, engineering or social sciences.

Ruckenstein also was the first full-time professor in the SUNY system to be elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering, and he later was named the 2004 recipient of its Founders Award, which the organization says recognizes "the elite of the NAE."

Distinguished engineers who have lauded his many accomplishments repeatedly mention the unprecedented breadth of his work.

Ruckenstein has made groundbreaking contributions in areas including transport phenomena, the stability of nano-sized liquid and solid films, and thermodynamics of complex systems. He pioneered the theoretical and experimental treatment of the stability of supported metal catalysts, and developed the first kinetic theory of nucleation, theories for colloidal forces and theories in molecular thermodynamics. He also invented new synthetic methods for preparing polymeric membranes and polymeric catalytic particles.

He has published more than 900 scientific papers and 10 patents have been issued based on his research. One of them, which covers new materials he developed with interesting thermal and rheological properties, was licensed by IBM and has been used in the company's computers. He currently is nearing completion of the third volume of his collected works.

Ruckenstein has been honored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers with its most prestigious awards: the Founder's Award in 2002 for outstanding contributions to the field of chemical engineering; the Walker Award in 1988 for excellence in contributions to chemical engineering literature, recognizing his work in catalysis; and the Alpha Chi Sigma Award in 1977 for excellence in chemical engineering research, recognizing his work in transport phenomena. And, on the occasion of its 100th anniversary, the institute designated him as one of 50 Eminent Chemical Engineers of the Foundation Age.

He received the 1986 Kendall Award of the American Chemical Society for creative theories and experiments in colloid and surface science and, in 1994, he received the society's Langmuir Lecture Award for his work in macromolecules.

In 1996, he was awarded the American Chemical Society's E.V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. He received the Senior Humboldt Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in West Germany in 1985 for his work related to detergents and the Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation for his work on protein separation.

He has received numerous other awards nationally and locally, including the Walter P. Cooke Award from UB for notable and meritorious contributions to the university; the Pioneer of Science Award from the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute; the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, UB's highest award; and the Jacob F. Schoellkopf Medal of the Western New York section of the American Chemical Society for his work in supported-metal catalysis.

Previously a professor at Polytechnic Institute in Bucharest, the University of Delaware and Clarkson University, Ruckenstein has held visiting professorships at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium; Technion in Haifa, Israel; Bayreuth University in West Germany; and Carnegie-Mellon University.

Ruckenstein received bachelor's and doctoral degrees in engineering from Polytechnic Institute in Bucharest.

He and his wife, Velina, who is a chemist, reside in Amherst.

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