Ruckenstein is Recipient of Founders Award from National Academy of Engineering

Release Date: October 1, 2004 This content is archived.


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Eli Ruckenstein is recipient of the Founders Award of the National Academy of Engineering.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Eli Ruckenstein, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo and the first full-time professor in the State University of New York system to be elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering, has been selected to receive the academy's Founders Award.

The Founders Award honors outstanding members who have upheld the ideals and principles of the NAE and who, the academy says, are "the elite of the NAE," individuals who have proven their worth throughout the years not only to the engineering community, but also through their dedication to the organization.

Ruckenstein, one of the world's most influential chemical engineers, is being honored for leadership in modernizing research and development in key areas of chemical engineering.

"Professor Ruckenstein's election to the NAE in 1990 was a momentous first for SUNY and UB, as it is the highest professional distinction an engineer can achieve in the U.S.," said Mark Karwan, Ph.D., dean of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"The NAE's decision to name Professor Ruckenstein the 2004 recipient of its Founders Award, which only can be awarded to those who have been elected to this distinguished organization, is yet another first for UB and SUNY," he continued.

"It is fitting testimony to a scholarly career characterized by the achievement of numerous, critical 'firsts' spurred by Professor Ruckenstein's ability to solve intractable research problems by approaching them in fundamentally novel ways."

Ruckenstein, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been a UB faculty member since 1973.

He is the first UB professor 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 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.

Distinguished engineers who wrote supporting materials for his nomination to receive the Founders Award repeatedly mention the unprecedented breadth of his work.

"There is virtually no aspect of modern chemical engineering that has not been profoundly influenced by Eli Ruckenstein," wrote one.

Another noted that while most scientists of distinction contribute in one or two areas, Ruckenstein can "innovate in a seemingly boundless scientific arena," while another noted that achievements in any one of the many areas Ruckenstein has impacted "would constitute a brilliant career. Together, they are nothing short of monumental."

Ruckenstein has made groundbreaking contributions in areas including transport phenomena, the stability of nanosized liquid and solid films and thermodynamics of complex systems. He pioneered the theoretical and experimental treatment of the stability of supported metal catalysts, 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.

Ten 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 now is used in the company's computers.

"At a time in his career when many scientists have already retired, Professor Ruckenstein continues to enter new fields and to make a major impact on them," said Karwan.

Recently, he has developed techniques for the preparation of chitosan and chitin membranes with controlled and reproducible porosity that can be used for protein separation and for the adsorption of cancer cells.

He has published more than 800 papers, an average of 35 papers each year, a pace that he continues to this day.

Ruckenstein previously was a professor at Polytechnic Institute in Bucharest, the University of Delaware and Clarkson University.

He 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 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 in 1988 and the Alpha Chi Sigma Award in 1977 for excellence in chemical engineering research.

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.

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.

Ruckenstein received bachelor 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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