ChEnected is introducing readers to the recipients of AIChE’s 2023 Institute and Board of Directors’ Awards, AIChE’s highest honors. Recipients are nominated by the chemical engineering community and voted upon by the members of AIChE’s volunteer-led Awards Committee. The Board of Directors’ Award honorees are nominated by the community and selected by AIChE’s Executive Committee.
The Alpha Chi Sigma Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in fundamental or applied chemical engineering research, and is sponsored by the Alpha Chi Sigma Educational Foundation and the Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity.
The recipient of the 2023 Alpha Chi Sigma Award is Dr. Zhen-Gang Wang, the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology.
Wang is being recognized “For theoretical contributions toward the understanding of transport, thermodynamics, and phase transitions in soft matter.”
Dr. Wang and the other Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients will be honored at the 2023 AIChE Annual Meeting, November 5–10 in Orlando, Florida.
What I appreciate most about chemical engineering as a discipline is its intellectual breadth, versatile approaches, and direct relevance to crucial global challenges, including energy, materials, sustainability, and health.
About Z-G Wang and his work
Zhen-Gang Wang’s training began at Beijing University and the University of Chicago, where he earned his BS and PhD in chemistry, respectively. After performing postdoctoral research — first at Exxon Research and Engineering Company and then at the University of California, Los Angeles — Wang joined the chemical engineering faculty at the California Institute of Technology in 1991.
Wang’s early work at Caltech focused on understanding the nature of anisotropic fluctuations in microphase-separated AB block copolymers, elucidating the sequence dependence in the morphology of ABC triblock copolymers, and exploring nucleation in phase transitions involving polymeric systems. Recently, Wang has turned his attention to charged systems, including polyelectrolytes, salt-doped polymers and liquid mixtures, and ionic liquids. These studies have brought new insights into the effects of ion solvation and electrostatic correlations in the thermodynamics of such systems. His team has made original contributions to salt effects on liquid–liquid phase separation in both simple and polymeric liquids, polyelectrolyte complex coacervation structure and thermodynamics, gas solubility and bubble nucleation in polymers, electric double-layer structure and forces, and ion solvation and transport in polymer electrolytes for battery applications.
Wang reflects on receiving the award
In acknowledging the Alpha Chi Sigma honor, Dr. Wang says that, throughout his decades as a chemical engineering faculty member, AIChE has provided a collegial, welcoming, and supportive community for professional growth. “What I appreciate most about chemical engineering as a discipline is its intellectual breadth, versatile approaches, and direct relevance to crucial global challenges, including energy, materials, sustainability, and health,” says Wang. “I consider myself fortunate to be part of this vibrant and impactful discipline.”
Wang adds that one of the most rewarding aspects of his career has been mentoring new generations of researchers, and providing a foundation for their future success. “While I certainly enjoy the thrills of scientific discovery, I find immense joy and satisfaction in sharing knowledge and insights with students, and aiding in their intellectual growth," he says. “Both in my research group and in the classroom, I try to provide students with rigorous training in the fundamentals, as I believe such a foundation is essential for conducting research in any area of chemical engineering.”
This fall, ChEnected is presenting profiles of all the 2023 Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients. Visit ChEnected regularly to meet this year’s honorees.