Notable Alumni

The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering has conferred thousands of degrees in its more than 100 years. Learn more about some of our prominent alumni below.

John L. Anderson
PhD 1971; NAE member
John Anderson pioneered the movement of particles and fluids in electric fields in conducting or partially conducting liquids. He is also a gifted academic administrator: He served as department head of chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, dean of engineering at the same school, provost at Case Western University, and president of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Albert “Les” Babb*
PhD 1951—Drickamer; NAE member
Les Babb worked at Rayonier Inc. and moved in 1952 to an academic position at the University of Washington. At Washington, Babb developed the nuclear engineering program. Eventually, he moved into biochemical engineering where he developed a portable, single-patient dialysate machine, known as an “artificial kidney.”

William (Bill) Banholzer
PhD 1983 — Masel; NAE member
After obtaining his PhD, William Banholzer had a 22-year career with GE, where he rose through the ranks to eventually become vice president of Global Technology at GE Advanced Materials, responsible for worldwide technology and engineering. In 2005, Banholzer joined the Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan, and retired as an Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. Banholzer was elected as a member of the governing council of the National Academy of Engineering. He was the department’s commencement speaker in 2004. In 2013, he joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison with appointments in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and in the Wisconsin Energy Institute.

Thomas Baron*
BS 1948; PhD 1948 — Johnstone; NAE member
After obtaining his PhD, Thomas Baron stayed on at Illinois as an instructor and then assistant professor. In 1951, Baron joined the Shell Development Company, and in 1981, retired as president of the company. Some of the awards he received in his 30-year career with Shell were the Alan P. Colburn Award and the Professional Progress Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Baron made significant contributions to chemical engineering theory and practice in fluid dynamics.

Arnold O. Beckman*
BS Chem. Eng. 1922, MS Phys. Chem. 1923; NAE member
Upon completion of his PhD degree at the California Institute of Technology in 1928, Arnold Beckman joined the faculty at that institution. In 1934, Beckman invented a portable meter for measuring the acidity of California lemons. The “Beckman acidometer” or pH meter as it came to be called, was the first of a series of successful inventions that made possible a revolution in scientific instrumentation. National Technical Laboratories was founded in 1935 — later renamed Beckman Instruments — and pioneering advances in measurement technology followed, including the Helipot, a precision electrical resistance device, and the DU spectrophotometer, which measured visible and ultraviolet light transmission. In 1997, Beckman Instruments merged with Coulter Corporation to form Beckman Coulter Corporation. As Beckman’s instrument empire evolved beyond his personal control, Beckman became free to devote more time to his philanthropic activities. Beckman and his wife, Mabel M. Beckman, contributed nearly $350 million to the advancement of research and education. The Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois is a fine example of their generosity. Other testaments to the Beckmans’ beneficence can be seen in the creation of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology, the Beckman Laser Institute at the University of California at Irvine, Stanford University’s Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Engineering, the Center for the History of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope (an institute dedicated to the prevention and cure of life-threatening diseases situated in Duarte, Calif.).

R. Byron Bird
BS 1947; NAE and NAS member
R. Byron Bird is a towering figure in modern chemical engineering. As a professor at the University of Wisconsin, where he has been since 1950, Bird outlined and unified the fundamental theories that govern transport phenomena in all chemical engineering processes. His book, Transport Phenomena, written with Stewart and Lightfoot, is the classic text of 20th-century chemical engineering. Bird is a member of both the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Science and a recipient of the National Medal of Science. Bird was a recipient of the LAS alumni achievement award in 1989.

Joan F. Brennecke
MS 1987, PhD 1989 — Eckert; NAE member
Joan Brennecke is Cockrell Family Chair in Engineering #16 at the University of Texas. Her research has focused on solvents, such as supercritical fluids and ionic liquids, which are less environmentally harmful than other solvents. Throughout her career, Brennecke has been recognized by many organizations, including the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2002, she was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering.

David V. Boger
MS 1964, PhD 1966 — Westwater
David Boger is a Professor of Engineering at Monash University and Laureate Professor and Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Melbourne in Australia. His contributions to fundamental research in fluid mechanics are highlighted by a class of fluids that bear his name—Boger Fluids, which are constant-viscosity elastic (non-Newtonian) fluids that behave as both liquids and solids. He has received many awards, including the Australian Prime Minister’s Prize for Science in 2005, the 2002 Victoria Prize, the Gold Medal of the British Society of rheology in 2001, and the Walter Ahlström Prize of the Finnish Academies of Technologies in 1995. In 2007 he was elected to the Royal Society.

Robert W. Dudley
BS 1978
After receiving his chemical engineering degree from the University of Illinois, Robert W. Dudley obtained an MIM degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. In 1979, he joined Amoco and worked in various areas until the company was purchased by BP, when Dudley became a general manager for strategy. Over the years he served in various managerial roles around the world. From 2003 to 2008 he served as president and CEO of a joint venture between BP and TNK in Russia. In 2010, he was in charge of BP’s efforts to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He became CEO of BP in October of 2010.

H. Scott Fogler*
BS 1962
H. Scott Fogler was one of our most accomplished alumni in academia. Fogler was the Ame and Catherine Vennema Distinguished Professor and the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from Illinois in 1962, and his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado in 1965. Fogler was department chairman from 1985 to 1990 at the University of Michigan and a faculty member there for more than 40 years. He published more than 200 papers and is the author of Elements of Chemical Reaction Engineering as well as Strategies for Creative Problem Solving. His Reaction Engineering book is used worldwide in chemical engineering curricula. He has won many research and teaching awards, including a Fulbright Scholarship, numerous named lectureships, and the American Society for Engineering Education Lifetime Achievement Award. He is credited for being a pioneer who created CD-ROM modules for engineering education and is the key creator of the AIChE Chem-E Car Competition. Fogler graduated about 40 students from his research group who have examined various aspects of porous media characterization, human toxicity models, and snakebite phenomena.

Curtis W. Frank
PhD 1972 — Drickamer; NAE member
After completing his BS degree from the University of Minnesota, Curtis W. Frank moved to Illinois where he obtained his MS and PhD degrees with Harry Drickamer. Frank pursued a career in academia and joined Stanford University, where he is the William M. Keck Sr. Professor of Chemical Engineering. Frank explores a range of materials, both from a fundamental point of view (e.g., organization at interfaces) as well as for specific applications (e.g., polymers in microelectronics, hydrogels for cell biology). Among many honors, Frank is a recipient of the Stine Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Sheldon K. Friedlander*
PhD 1954 — Johnstone; NAE member
After obtaining an MS degree from MIT and a PhD from the University of Illinois, Sheldon Friedlander pursued a career in higher education that carried him to Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Caltech and finally UCLA, where he was a professor of chemical engineering for nearly three decades, until just before his death in 2007. Friedlander was a leading scientist in aerosol research, where his work helped identify the various pollutants in smog and quantify them by source, which aided governments in refining environmental regulations.

Shun Chong Fung*
PhD 1969 — Drickamer; NAE member
Born in Guangdong province, China, Shun Chong Fung was raised in Hong Kong and attended the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1960, before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley and graduating with his BS in chemical engineering in 1965. He continued his education at the University of Illinois, where he received his MS (1967) and PhD (1969), both in chemical engineering. He then spent his entire 34-year career working in ExxonMobil’s Corporate Research organization. He retired from ExxonMobil Research and Engineering in 2003 as a senior research associate. Shun Fung is best known for his fundamental work in elucidating the mechanistic chemistry involved in the redispersion of noble metal catalysts. He effectively used these insights to develop commercially important methods for regenerating deactivated platinum, palladium, and other supported metal catalysts. His regeneration and metal redispersion techniques have been applied globally to most of the world’s catalytic reforming units, which produce high-octane gasoline through dehydrogenation and dehydrocyclization reactions. 

John A. Georges
BS 1951
John A. Georges held several important positions at DuPont and later at International Paper Company where he was CEO and Chairman. As the world’s largest paper and forest products company, International Paper owes much of its growth and success in the 1980s and 1990s to him. Georges was a driving force behind the company’s modernization of its mills and product line as well as its numerous acquisitions during his tenure with the company.

Joseph P. Glas
MS 1962, PhD 1965 — Westwater
Joseph P. Glas completed his PhD with Professor Westwater then joined DuPont, where he rose through the ranks to become director, vice president, and general manager of DuPont’s Fluorochemicals Division. He later became vice president and general manager of DuPont Fluoroproducts, and in 1998, he was named vice president and general manager of DuPont’s Biotechnology Division. Glas is the author of Protecting the Ozone Layer: A Perspective from Industry, published in Technology and Environment (National Academy Press, 1989), and he also helped author a research study sponsored by the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine titled Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming: Mitigation, Adaptation, and the Science Base. He was the department’s commencement speaker in 2011.

George C. Homsy
MS 1967, PhD 1969 — Hudson
George Homsy is a Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of British Columbia, and currently Affiliate Faculty in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington. Homsy researches fluid mechanics and hydrodynamic stability and has authored over 150 papers. He received the Fluid Dynamics Prize of the American Physical Society in 2004 and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2006 for his innovative experimental and theoretical studies of multiphase and interfacial flow phenomena and for the development of educational materials in fluid mechanics.

Dennis M. Houston
BS 1974
After graduation, Dennis M. Houston started his career with the Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge, La., which was followed by a rapid rise up the ranks, eventually becoming executive vice president of the ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Company and chairman and president of ExxonMobil Sales and Supply LLC. He retired from the company in 2010. One of Houston’s most memorable assignments came early in his career when he moved to Singapore to serve as deputy managing director of Esso Singapore in 1988, and then chairman and managing director in 1989. In addition, Houston helped plan the $80 billion merger transition of Mobil and Exxon in 1998, and his organizations within ExxonMobil have raised the industry bar in safety and environmental performance. He is serving as a founding member of the School of Chemical Sciences Leadership Council. He was a recipient of the LAS alumni achievement award in 2006.

Eleutherios T. Houvouras
MS 1950, PhD 1953 — Johnstone
After obtaining his PhD degree, Eleutherios Houvouras was a postdoctoral assistant in inorganic chemistry at the University of Illinois. Houvouras then held managerial positions in several chemical companies like Rohm and Haas Company, DuPont (acetate fibers and Lycra business), Allied Chemical Corporation and Getty Oil. To complete his career, he became a successful consultant and investor with Merrill Lynch.

Wayne J. Howell
MS 1987, PhD 1989 — Eckert
Wayne J. Howell joined IBM in East Fishkill where he rapidly ascended through the ranks in several management and technical positions. He has held a number of engineering and management positions supporting development and manufacturing in semiconductor and microelectronic packaging technologies. He has also been a technical assistant to the IBM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Most recently he was the IBM Strategic Partnership Executive, responsible for the business and technical engagement between the Systems and Technology teams in the Systems and Technology Group. Presently, Howell is the vice president for design and engineering of the IBM Systems and Technology Group, responsible for the design and product engineering of Entertainment and Embedded Processors. He was named one of IBM’s top inventors in 1998, and currently holds more than 50 U.S. patents. Howell was the department’s commencement speaker in 2006.

John L. Hudson*
BS 1959, NAE member
After receiving his BS, John L. Hudson continued his education, obtaining his MSE from Princeton and his PhD from Northwestern University. He then returned to the University of Illinois as a professor from 1963 to 1974. Hudson studied complex dynamic chemical reaction systems through experimentation and mathematical modeling. He was the Wills Johnson Professor at the University of Virginia.

Allen A. Kozinski
BS 1963
Allen A. Kozinski held senior management positions at Quaker Oats and British Petroleum/Amoco where he rose to Group Vice President. In February 2007, he was elected to the Board of Directors of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, the aerospace, ground defense, and industrial equipment company.

Steven L. Miller
BS 1967
Upon graduation, Steven L. Miller joined Shell in Houston. Miller was named vice president of refining and marketing in 1988, and after a stint in London with the Royal Dutch/Shell Group management team, he was named director of strategy and business services for the oil products business in 1996. He later became a managing director of Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. He returned to the U.S. in 1999 to become president and CEO of Shell Oil Company until his retirement in 2002. His many activities in the business and academic communities include member of the board of Applied Materials, a director for the American Petroleum Institute, member of Rice University’s Board of Trustees, and president of the University of Illinois Foundation. Miller was the department’s commencement speaker in 2002. He was also the inaugural Samuel W. Parr Lecturer at the Noyes Lab Centennial celebration in 2002.

Robert Mueller
BS 1942
Upon graduating from the University of Illinois, Robert Mueller began work for Esso, now Exxon, as a chemical engineer. He worked in research and development, assisting the war effort through the production of butyl rubber for tires for military transports and other transportation uses. Following Esso, he joined Celanese, where he worked in R&D on polymers, ultimately delving into the manufacture of boat resins and paints. Over the years, Mueller continued to work for Celanese at various locations in New Jersey, as well as for companies that bought Celanese plants. He holds five patents for chemical processes, including one for extreme pressure equipment and one for coal gasification.

Charles J. Prizer
BS 1944
Charles J. Prizer joined Rohm & Haas and advanced upward through management position, retiring as vice president. He and his late wife endowed the Charles J. Prizer and Dorothy Prizer Chair in Chemical Engineering to the department. The chair is presently held by Richard C. Alkire. In 2003, he received the Dean’s Quadrangle Award for his contributions to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

John A. Quinn*
BS 1954; NAE member
Upon completing his PhD degree in Princeton, John A. Quinn returned to Illinois to join the faculty in chemical engineering in 1958. In 1971, he joined the University of Pennsylvania. He was the first recipient of the Robert D. Bent endowed professorship and served as Penn’s chairman of the department from 1980 to 1985. Throughout his career, he performed pioneering research on transport through interfaces and membranes, for which he obtained many awards and was elected into the National Academy of Engineering.

Scott L. Rakestraw
BS 1984
After obtaining his PhD degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scott Rakestraw embarked on a step career path in the biotech industry. Rakestraw held business development, research and development and marketing positions at DuPont, where he co-founded Qualicont LLC, a developer of rapid DNA diagnostics for the biochemical process industries and launched several other successful businesses. He also was responsible for directing the development and commercialization of two consecutive “R&D 100” award-winning genomics products. Subsequently, Rakestraw served as vice president of business development, general manager of the biomedical business unit, and a member of the board of directors at Altus Biologics Inc. Next, he joined Orchid Cellmark (previously Orchid Biosciences) where he was executive director of Therapeutics Business Development. Rakestraw is managing director of The Branta Group, a Pennsylvania-based investment firm. He was the department’s commencement speaker in 2005.

Keith F. Reese
BS 1979
Keith F. Reese held several management and technical positions at Intel including vice president of the Technology and Manufacturing Group, and general manager of Intel’s worldwide supply network, before retiring from the company. He was the department’s commencement speaker in 2013.

Walter L. Robb*
PhD 1951 — Drickamer; NAE member
Upon graduation, Walter L. Robb joined General Electric where he steadily moved up through the company’s research organization. In 1986, Robb became the vice president for corporate research and development. Under his leadership GE became the world’s leading producer of medical imaging equipment. For many years Robb led GE’s Medical Systems business, which included major advances in computed tomography or CT scanning in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he led GE in the implementation of strong superconducting magnets in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), thereby vastly improving its performance. Robb was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Bill Clinton for his foresight which led to widespread acceptance of imaging technology in hospitals and medical practices across the country. He is presently president and owner of Vantage Management Inc., a firm located in Schenectady, NY, that provides business and technical consulting to growing companies. He was a recipient of the LAS alumni achievement award in 2001 and was the department’s commencement speaker in 2001.

Roger A. Schmitz*
BS 1959; NAE member
After obtaining his PhD degree from the University of Minnesota, Roger A. Schmitz joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1962. In 1979 he moved to the University of Notre Dame, where he became the Keating-Crawford Professor. His research involved applied mathematics, modeling, and simulation of ecosystems. At Notre Dame, Schmitz held several administrative positions: chairman of chemical engineering, dean of engineering, vice president, and associate provost.

John H. Sinfelt*
PhD 1954 — Drickamer; NAE member
John H. Sinfelt joined the Standard Oil Development Company now ExxonMobil where he performed research on noble metal catalyst. After developing a new approach to bimetallic catalysts, which he called “clusters,” Sinfelt invented a superior platinum-iridium catalyst that was important in the quest to produce lead-free, high-octane gasoline cheaply. His work also provided a scientific base for other processes to produce petrochemicals in high volume.

Irene A. Strohbeen
MS 1980
Irene A. Strohbeen held many technical management positions at Kimberly-Clark, including research director of family care research and development and director of product and technology development of the company’s enterprise growth incubator. She is on the adjunct faculty of the Milwaukee School of Engineering and her firm, Irene Strohbeen and Associates, provides consultation in innovation, new business development, and new product management. Strohbeen was the department’s commencement speaker in 2007.

Robert S. Stuart
BS 1943
After World War II, Robert Stuart joined the family business, the National Can Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, where he rapidly ascended to the position of president and CEO. With his leadership, the company achieved the highest earnings for an entire decade among all publicly owned companies (Forbes). He has worked with and often led groups in youth development, health care, crime prevention, church life, education, and much more. For example, he was the founding chairman of a development council that helps minority-owned companies obtain billions of dollars worth of business annually. He was a recipient of the LAS alumni achievement award in 2005.

L. Jack Thomas*
PhD 1960 — Westwater; NAE member
After receiving his PhD, L. Jack Thomas went to work for the Eastman Kodak Company as a research chemist and remained a vital member of the corporation until his retirement in 1996. He was named director of their Research Laboratories in 1977, chairman of the subsidiary Sterling Drug in 1988, president of the Imaging Group in 1989, and executive vice president of Kodak in 1994. He was active in scientific organizations, being a member of the New York State Science and Technology Foundation and chairman of the Resource Development Committee of the University of Illinois. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and served as a member of the Academy Council. He was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was a founding fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and received a University of Illinois Alumni Honor award for distinguished service in engineering along with numerous other awards.

John (Jack) F. Welch Jr.
PhD 1960 — Westwater; NAE member
John (Jack) Welch Jr. is probably the most well-known graduate of our department. Upon completion of his PhD with Professor Westwater, Welch joined GE plastics in Pittsfield, Mass. In subsequent years he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming vice president of GE in 1972, senior vice president in 1977, vice chairman in 1979, and chairman and CEO in 1981, a position he held until his retirement in 2001. Welch gained a reputation for uncanny business acumen and unique leadership strategies at GE. During his tenure, GE increased its market capitalization from $14 billion to more than $400 billion. He remains a highly-regarded figure in business circles due to his innovative management strategies and leadership style. Welch wrote a number of books on his career and his approach to successful business leadership.

John H. Widdowson*
BS 1941
After receiving his BS in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois, John H. Widdowson obtained his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1948. He became an attorney and started a law practice, John H. Widdowson Law Offices (subsequently Widdowson and Carpenter), in Wichita, Kan. In September 2002, Widdowson received the Dean’s Quadrangle Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Asterisk (*) indicates that the individual is deceased. If someone is missing from this list, contact us at