University of Minnesota Professor Michael Tsapatsis elected to the National Academy of Engineering

February 6, 2015

Michael Tsapatsis, a chemical engineering and materials science professor at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions awarded to an engineer. Only 67 new members nationwide and 12 foreign associates received the honor this year.

Tsapatsis received the honor for design and synthesis of specialized nanomaterials, called zeolites, that are used for selective separation and reaction. His research group’s accomplishments include development of unique molecular sieves and membranes that are used to increase efficiencies in the chemical and petroleum processing industries.

“This recognition gives me strength and increased responsibility to continue our work on energy-efficient processing technologies to enable a sustainable future for the chemical industry,” said Tsapatsis. “The research recognized by NAE could only be accomplished at the University of Minnesota because it provides a unique environment for collaborative work at the forefront of chemical engineering and materials science. It is based on contributions from more than 50 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who worked hard to realize innovative ideas and concepts.”

“Michael Tsapatsis has made groundbreaking discoveries regarding the synthesis, structure, properties and application of zeolites that impact numerous industries critical to the U.S. and world economies,” said Frank S. Bates, a National Academy of Engineering member and University of Minnesota Regents Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. “His work is simultaneously scientifically fundamental and eminently practical, the hallmark of a leading chemical engineer and materials scientist.”

Tsapatsis has been professor at the University of Minnesota since 2003, and he currently holds the Amundson Chair in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. He has published more than 200 papers and has been invited to present more than 130 lectures around the world. He is the inventor/co-inventor of eight issued patents and six patent applications, several of which have been licensed and one commercialized. He also contributed to the development of materials currently in industrial use for natural gas purification.

Tsapatsis has received several awards, including the Alpha Chi Sigma Award for Chemical Engineering Research, the Breck Award from the International Zeolite Association, the Charles M.A. Stine Award from the Materials Engineering & Sciences Division of AIChE, a Packard Foundation Fellowship, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

From 2008 to 2013 he served as editor for the Microporous and Mesoporous Materials, the official journal of the International Zeolite Association. He is on the advisory board of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research and an editorial board member of the Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. In 2013, he was elected as a council member of the International Zeolite Association.

During his career he has supervised/co-supervised 31 Ph.D. students and advised 23 former postdoctoral fellows who now work in the chemical and microelectronics industries in national labs and academia.

“Tsapatsis is not only a world class researcher, he is an outstanding and versatile educator as well,” said Dan Frisbie, head of the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. “He embodies the culture we have in this department that teaching and research are synergistic, and that we must excel at both. He is a terrific mentor to his students.”

Tsapatsis received an engineering diploma (1988) from the University of Patras, Greece, and master’s (1991) and Ph.D. (1994) degrees from the California Institute of Technology, working with George Gavalas (a Ph.D. graduate of the University of Minnesota). After graduating, he was a post-doctoral fellow at Caltech (working with Mark E. Davis) for a year and then served as a faculty member in the chemical engineering department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1994-2003 before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota.

More information on today’s elections, including a list of the newly elected members and foreign associates, is available on the National Academy of Engineering website.

About the National Academy of Engineering

Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology. 

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