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Professor receives AIChE Founder’s Award

Stanley I. Sandler
9:09 a.m., Aug. 13, 2004--Stanley I. Sandler, Henry Belin du Pont Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, is the recipient of the 2004 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Founder’s Award.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions in the chemical engineering field and is presented to an AIChE member who has had an important impact on chemical engineering and whose achievements, either specific or general, have advanced this profession in any of its aspects.

“This is a very important award that represents a lifetime of contributions to chemical engineering,” Eric Kaler, dean of UD’s College of Engineering and Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical Engineering, said. "I am sure I speak for all of Stan's colleagues in expressing delight in this recognition. Stan has had a wonderful career at Delaware, and his scholarship and leadership are respected by everyone. His focus on excellent teaching and research has really been an inspiration to me personally and should be a model for all of us."

Sandler is the latest in a long line of Founder’s Award winners with UD connections, including former faculty members Eli Ruckenstein and James Wei, professor emeritus Arthur B. Metzner and the late Robert L. Pigford.

Sandler said he was pleased to learn of his selection, which he attributes to the opportunity to work in a strong UD chemical engineering department and to the fact that he has been active in research, teaching and AIChE activities for many years.

“The University of Delaware has a history of having one of the best chemical engineering departments in the country,” Sandler said. “I’ve had a long research career, a long teaching career and have long been active in the institute, most recently as the editor of the AIChE Journal. In addition, I have served on the National Research Council committees on the destruction of chemical weapons. In some sense, this is a longevity award, and recognizes all contributions to the profession. That is part of what makes it so special.”

Sandler said he was gratified to learn that the effort to have him receive the Founder’s Award was spearheaded by former students. That kind of support is indicative of the positive atmosphere that exists between students and faculty in the chemical engineering department, which is consistently ranked among the finest in the nation, he said.

“One of the very nice things in our department is that it is very supportive,” Sandler said. “People work together well and provide one another encouragement.”

Sandler said that, early in his career, he was fortunate to work with many of the former UD faculty members who were previous Founder’s Award winners. “They set standards of performance that I have tried to emulate,” he said.

Looking at his career, Sandler said several things stand out as highlights, including his textbook Chemical and Engineering Thermodynamics, the fourth edition of which is in the works.

“I never would have thought that I would write a textbook,” he said, noting that inspiration came from departmental colleagues who also were writing texts.

There are about 55,000 chemical engineers in the United States, and Sandler’s textbook has sold more than 35,000 copies worldwide. “So I feel I have had a real impact on the profession in educating its practitioners,” he said.

A second highlight is a conference he organized in 1977 that brought chemical engineers from academia together with those in industry. “The meeting was an enormous success,” he said, and was repeated three years later in Berlin. Now the conference alternates every three years between sites in the U.S. and Europe. “It is very pleasing to set something up and see it continue well beyond my involvement,” he said. Adding that the early conferences opened a number of doors for him in industrial consulting, which provided experiences he could bring back to the classroom and incorporate into his textbook.

Sandler said he also considers it a pleasure to have worked with so many able students over the years, and “particularly the graduate students with whom I was able to spend a great deal of time working on exciting research.”

An unexpected career highlight has been his work on chemical weapons disposal as a member of the National Research Council committees. “This has been one of the more interesting diversions in my career,” Sandler said. “It was not something I had planned on or initially something I knew about.” Now, after five years, he is considered an expert in the field and has the satisfaction of working on projects to reduce the number of weapons of mass destruction in the U.S.

In recent years, Sandler said he has enjoyed working in Australia, where he is participating in a collaborative research program in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Melbourne, where he holds an honorary professorial fellowship.

Still, Sandler’s heart is very attached to UD. “This has been a good place to work,” he said. “Certainly this department and this college provide a very good environment. We get very good students and have an excellent physical facility to work in. There is a spirit of collegiality such that I have always enjoyed being here.”

Sandler retains a great enthusiasm for the field of chemical engineering and has far surpassed the modest expectations he had when he started his career. “Lots of things have happened that I would never have anticipated. Much of it has been almost serendipitous, not things I had planned,” he said. “A large collection of opportunities arose, and I didn’t say no when opportunity knocked. And most of them worked out very well.”

Article by Neil Thomas
Photo by Kevin Quinlan

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