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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Professors Paul Kenis, Hong Yang promoted to endowed chairs

Dr. Jonathan Sweedler, director of the School of Chemical Sciences, has announced two new chairs in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Dr. Paul J. A. Kenis, currently the William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor will be the Elio Eliakim Tarika Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering. Dr. Hong Yang, the Richard C. Alkire Professor, will be the Richard Alkire Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Both chair appointments will start in August 2018, and investitures are being planned for Fall 2018. Investiture as a named chair or professor is one of the highest honors a faculty member can receive, and the selection process requires careful and critical examination of an individual’s career.

Paul J. A. KenisElio Eliakim Tarika Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering

Dr. Paul Kenis

The Elio Eliakim Tarika Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering, or “Tarika Chair,” recognizes excellence in research and was created in honor of Elio Tarika by his late wife, Nancy Tarika. Elio was a native of Cairo, Egypt, who arrived in the U.S. on the first Liberty ship that sailed from Alexandria, Egypt, after World War II. He obtained his BS in Chemical Engineering from Illinois in 1949, then had a long and successful career as a researcher and executive in the chemical industry, mostly with Union Carbide. In 1990, Elio retired as chairman of the board of the Viskase Corporation.

Kenis graduated from Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1993. He then earned a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Twente, The Netherlands in 1997. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University under George Whitesides from December 1997 to August 2000. He then joined the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering faculty at the University of Illinois as an Assistant Professor, and has been a full Professor since 2010, serving as the department’s head since 2011.

His research focuses on the development of microchemical systems to study fundamental phenomena (including protein chemistry and cell biology) as well as a wide range of applications in energy conversion and chemical synthesis. Most recently his efforts have focused on microreactors for the synthesis of semiconducting nanoparticles, microfluidic approaches to study protein folding as well as protein and pharmaceutical crystallization, and, most prominently, on developing catalysts, electrodes, and electrolyzers for the efficient electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide to value-added chemicals.

Hong Yang – Richard Alkire Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Dr. Hong Yang

The Richard Alkire Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, or “Alkire Chair,” recognizes expertise and academic abilities within the field of chemical engineering. The predecessor of this named position was established by Charles J. and Dorothy G. Prizer. Mr. Prizer received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Illinois and spent the majority of his professional career serving in a variety of executive roles for the Rohm & Haas Company, including corporate vice president in several divisions and ultimately retiring as Vice President and Regional Director of Corporate Operations, North America Region. The present chair has been established in honor of Professor Alkire, in part aided by the generosity of alumni and friends of Dr. Alkire, who joined the department in 1969. Alkire, the Charles J. and Dorothy G. Prizer Chair Emeritus, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Yang graduated from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1989. He earned his M.S. from the University of Victoria in 1994, and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1998. He then was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University under George Whitesides from September 1998 to June 2001. He joined the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering faculty at the University of Illinois as a full professor in 2012.

His current research efforts are focused on new nanostructures (size, shape, composition and surface) that allow the change of electron band property and the surface atomic arrangement of the metal catalyst by incorporating or changing other metal elements. These synthetic capabilities allow for the chemisorption of the oxygen containing intermediates that have the largest impact on the kinetics for oxygen reduction and evolution reactions and improving the catalyst activity and stability for applications in hydrogen fuel cell, battery, and electrolyzer for hydrogen production through water splitting.