Laura Tolley

Neal Amundson, Pioneer in Chemical Reaction Engineering, Dies at Age 95

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February 18, 2011-Houston-
University of Houston professor emeritus Neal Amundson, a pioneer of chemical reaction engineering who was widely regarded as a top educator in his field, died Wednesday at age 95.Neal Amundson

“We are deeply saddened at the great loss of Neal Amundson to our UH community and to chemical engineering education and research,” said Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean and Professor of the UH Cullen College of Engineering. “His impact to UH and the profession has been, and will continue to be, extremely profound.”

Amundson was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1970 for his groundbreaking research into the fundamental analysis of chemical processes as well as for his role in engineering education. His longstanding research contributions to the field of chemical reaction engineering included analyzing and modeling chemical reactors, separation systems, polymerization and coal combustion.

Before joining UH in 1976, he led the top-ranked University of Minnesota Department of Chemical Engineering for 25 years. At UH, he was instrumental in guiding the chemical engineering program into the top 10 nationally ranked programs in the early 1980s.

“Neal was single-handedly responsible for building one of the best chemical engineering departments in the country at the University of Minnesota,” said Dan Luss, a UH chemical engineering professor who earned his doctorate under Amundson at Minnesota in 1966. “He was instrumental in putting UH’s chemical engineering program on the map. He took what used to be a rather empirical approach to research and introduced new methods of scientific study that were adopted by chemical engineering programs across the nation.”

His contributions to engineering education and research were recognized by organizations such as the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Chemical Society, the American Society of Engineering Education and the International Symposia of Chemical Reaction Engineering, an organization that named an award in his honor. The Neal R. Amundson Award is bestowed every three years to recognize a pioneer in the field, with the last award going to Luss last summer.

In addition to the NAE, Amundson was an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was a recipient of the NAE Founders’ Award and held honorary doctorates from the University of Minnesota, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, University of Guadalajara and Northwestern University. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Minnesota in 1937 and 1945, respectively; and his doctorate in mathematics from Minnesota n 1947.

At Minnesota, the building that houses the chemical engineering and materials science departments is named “Amundson Hall” and UH’s department of chemical and biomolecular engineering named its annual lecture series after him. In addition, he was honored by UH with the Esthel Farfel Award, the highest faculty award given at the university.
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