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Professor Spontak and Colleagues Awarded Underwood Medal

Professor Richard Spontak
Professor Richard Spontak

Professor Richard Spontak and his colleagues, Drs. Liyuan Deng of Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Marius Sandru of SINTEF Industry (Norway), have been awarded the prestigious Underwood Medal by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). The IChemE is the second largest chemical engineering professional society after the AIChE.

The Underwood Medal, which recognizes a major contribution to research in the area of separations, is named after Dr. A. J. V. Underwood, a researcher, consultant, teacher, and member of IChemE’s Council, known for his distillation design equation. The medal honors individuals making a significant, sustained contribution to research in the area of separations.

The academic-industrial partnership of Spontak, Deng, and Sandru is a synergistic combination of polymer and membrane scientists who have designed and developed new polymer membranes for gas separations, and in particular, carbon capture, independently and collaboratively for over twenty years. They have received joint funding and exchanged graduate students, and they have infused contemporary topics in polymer science, such as self-assembly and surface grafting, into membrane development with promising results.

The team was awarded the Underwood Medal “for their significant contribution to researching membrane separations which is making a tangible difference to decarbonising the power and cement sectors.” Their patented gas separation membranes have been commercialized and applied to carbon capture in those industries.

Prof. Spontak is a Distinguished Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, a Professor of Materials Science & Engineering and an Alumni Distinguished Graduate and Undergraduate Professor. He received his B.S. degree from Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Berkeley, both in chemical engineering. He completed post-doctoral research in Materials Science & Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge (U.K.) and at the Institute for Energy Technology (Norway).

Spontak is the recipient of numerous national and international awards for his research and teaching accomplishments. His awards at NC State include the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Extension, which is the most prestigious award the College of Engineering bestows upon a faculty member, and the Alexander Quarles Holladay Medals for Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by NC State and the university’s Board of Trustees. He has also received college- and alumni-level Outstanding Teaching Awards, as well as the system-level Board of Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

He is an elected fellow of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the International Association of Advanced Materials. He is also a member of the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences (NTVA), which is the Norwegian equivalent of the National Academy of Engineering.

Spontak’s other awards include the Roy W. Tess Award from the Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) of the American Chemical Society and the IChemE Global Research Project Award and the International Award from the Society of Polymer Science, Japan (SPSJ), all in 2022, the 2021 International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM) Researcher of the Year, a Tau Beta Pi Distinguished Alumnus Award, the ACS Cooperative Research Award in Polymer Science & Engineering, the Minerals and Mining Colwyn Medal and the Society of Plastics Engineers International Award, to name a few.

A hearty congratulations to Professor Richard Spontak for these recognitions and your accomplishments that inspire them!