October 8, 2013
Professor and Department Head Paul J.A. Kenis of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of Illinois was invested as the William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor in the School of Chemical Sciences during an investiture ceremony on September 25, 2013 at the Spurlock Museum.
Kenis, who has earned an international reputation for his research and scholarship in microchemical systems, leads a creative and highly interdisciplinary research program at Illinois that has led to new understanding and applications in energy and health.
His research focuses on microreactors, microfuel cells, and enabling microfluidic tools. He has become an established leader on campus as his work combines principles from engineering, chemistry, and the biological sciences to address programs that have ranged from protein crystallization to fuel cells and artificial photosynthesis.
Upon receiving the named professorship, Kenis said he reflected on his path to Illinois. He said he had an inspiring set of high school teachers in physics, biology, and chemistry that helped put him on course to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry at the University of Nijmegen, which he then followed up with a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at Twente University in his native home of the Netherlands.
He said he was fortunate enough to be part of the early days of microfluidics while a Postdoc at Harvard, which now has led him to become a leader in the field. “At Illinois, I have been blessed to work with collaborators in many different disciplines,” he said.
The William H. and Janet G. Lycan Chemical Science Faculty Excellence Fund was established in 1990 and supplements funds for faculty positions in the School of Chemical Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. William H. Lycan’s career is marked by his accomplishments and dedication to the chemical sciences. He and his wife received their degrees from the University of Illinois. Past recipients of the Lycan Professorship include Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Emeritus Professor Charles Zukoski and School of Chemical Sciences Director and Professor Jonathan Sweedler.
Kenis joined the University of Illinois as an assistant professor in 2000. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Radboud University, Nijmegen, in 1993, and his doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Twente, Enschede, in 1997. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University.
Kenis thanked the students in his research lab including undergraduates, graduates, and postdocs. “I want to thank you for your hard work,” he said. “It is a pleasure to work with you and watch you become independent and develop new ideas.”
Receiving the Lycan Professorship is an honor for Kenis who said he grateful to the Lycans for their gift. “Illinois is a great place to work and live,” he said. “And, it is my honor to be a Lycan Professor.”
The honor was presented to Kenis by Jonathan Sweedler, Director of the School of Chemical Sciences and Professor, Ilesanmi Adesida, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost, Brian Ross, Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Andrew Gewirth, Professor of Chemistry and former director of the School of Chemical Sciences.
Adesida said that “Kenis now joins the most accomplished researchers, teachers, and mentors at Illinois who are international and national leaders in their fields. Be proud of what you have accomplished so far in your career.”
Gewirth shared that sentiment saying that Kenis has expanded the field of microfluidics and has become an innovative leader. “He leads by his enthusiasm,” Gewirth said. “He is full of energy, and he is a great collaborator and department head. It has been a pleasure to be a colleague and collaborator with you.”