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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Dow Chemical pledges millions to Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department

The Dow Chemical Company has pledged more than $13 million to the University of Illinois Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.

Dow will provide support for four graduate student fellows(who will be named Dow Chemical Company Fellows), funds to enhance the start-up packages of junior faculty hires (who will be named Dow Chemical Early Career Fellows) and funds for three sponsored research projects.

For the sponsored research projects, faculty from Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering will pursue the design, synthesis and characterization of new materials for encapsulation and targeted release and for new emitters for optoelectronic applications. The funding will begin in 2012.

Dow’s support totals more than $13 million over five years. The investment will be used to strengthen research in traditional scientific fields that are important to Dow.

The pledge is part of Dow’s larger commitment to donate a total of $25 million a year for 10 years, for a total of $250 million, to advance research and development at 11 U.S. universities, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Over the last decade, a shift has occurred in Chemical Engineering departments across the United States, which concerns Dow, according to Theresa G. Kotanchek, vice president of sustainable technologies and innovation sourcing at Dow. Today, more than 45 percent of faculty in chemical engineering departments are focused on bioengineering versus traditional chemical engineering skills, so fewer students are receiving critical training and “fewer are conducting research in areas of strategic importance to industry,” according to Kotanchek.

Although the number of doctorates awarded in engineering increased 50 percent to about 9,000 over the decade that ended in 2010, the number of chemical-engineering Ph.D.s is still not enough to satisfy demand, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“As a major employer of scientific and engineering talent, Dow is committed to the development of the 21st-century workforce, which will work to solve society’s most pressing challenges while cultivating a more competitive U.S. marketplace,” said Andrew N. Liveris, Dow’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Excellence in scientific education and the development of innovative solutions go hand-in-hand. We are pleased to partner with academia to ensure that a vital pipeline of talent and research is available to fuel the discoveries and solutions of tomorrow.”

This investment will increase collaboration between Dow and key universities, and it will help develop America’s future pipeline of PhD-level talent, according to William F. Banholzer, executive vice president of Ventures, New Business Development & Licensing and Chief Technology Officer at Dow.

“It is vital that we support academic research to ensure universities can continue the tradition of excellence in chemical engineering, chemistry and materials science to help address theneeds of the industry and of our country,” he said.