Mou Paul of Dow Chemical Selected as AIChE’s Industrial Progress Award Recipient

This fall, ChEnected is introducing readers to the recipients of AIChE’s 2021 Institute and Board of Directors’ Awards. These are AIChE’s highest honors, and all candidates are nominated by the chemical engineering community and voted upon by the members of AIChE’s volunteer-led Awards Committee. The awards acknowledge outstanding achievements across a spectrum of chemical engineering endeavors. 

AIChE’s Industrial Progress Award is given for early-career accomplishments and contributions to industrial practice by an individual working in industries served by chemical engineers. 

Dr. Paul’s recognition

This year’s award recipient is Mou Paul, Senior Research Scientist at the Dow Chemical Company. 

Dr. Paul is being honored as “An industrial technical leader who excels at the intersection of product innovation and fundamental polymer science to create products for a more sustainable future.”

Mou Paul and the other Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients will receive their awards at the 2021 AIChE Annual Meeting, November 7–11 in Boston, Massachusetts. A video presentation of the awards will be available for viewing the following week at a virtual version of the Annual Meeting

“I believe that we should not just focus on ‘what’ a technology offers, but also should relentlessly seek the answer to ‘why and how’ that technology should be used.” 

More about this year’s winner

Dr. Paul applies fundamental science to develop practical solutions for major global challenges. In particular, she is an expert in fundamental polymer science, and in her research she has helped to advance a breadth of technologies and fields, including fuel cells, water purification, sustainable packaging, waste plastic recycling, and more. 

With water scarcity a global problem, and reverse osmosis (RO) membranes the longtime enabling technology for water purification, one of Dr. Paul’s major contribution at Dow has been her invention of new generations of polyamide membranes, which have been commercialized in numerous RO products. 

Paul’s recent work in water purification membranes was featured as the cover story in Science (2021). In addition to RO, she is an expert in nanofiltration membrane technology used in applications such as sulfate removal for offshore oil production, as well as non-aqueous separation processes such as whey demineralization and sugar separation. Among her innovations is a breakthrough additive technology that improves membrane productivity by a factor of five.

She earned her PhD in macromolecular science and engineering at Virginia Tech. To date, she has filed 151 global patents with 53 of them granted so far. 

Paul’s reflections on the award

Dr. Paul says that she is a strong believer in the importance of collaboration and advancing fundamental science to drive innovation.

“I am passionate about applying fundamental science to develop practical solutions for addressing global challenges such as water purification, energy conservation and waste plastic recycling. However, I also believe that we should not just focus on what a technology offers, but also should relentlessly seek the answer to why and how that technology should be used. 

"When I reflect on chemical engineers’ role in 2021 and beyond, I consider the importance of inter-disciplinary research — such as in computation, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. Collaboration between industries, universities and government sectors is also important, as is effective business and public communication. The other area that I want to emphasize is the need to promote inclusion and diversity in chemical enterprises, including supporting women’s technical leadership and engagement. 

Together, we are striving for a sustainable future, be it from an energy, water or recycling perspective, and chemical engineers can play a significant role to enable that vision.”

Stay in the know

In the weeks leading up to the 2021 AIChE Annual Meeting, ChEnected will feature the other 2021 Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients. Visit the ChEnected series regularly to meet all of this year’s honorees. Visit to see all award winners.