Robert A. Brown | AIChE

Robert A. Brown

President Emeritus, Professor of Engineering, and Professor of Computing & Data Sciences
Boston University

Dr. Brown, a distinguished chemical engineer and educator, served as President of Boston University from 2005 to 2023. It was a period of transformation and growth for the University, recognized externally by increasing student outcomes, improved rankings and, in 2012, by membership in the American Association of Universities, the organization of the leading research universities in the United States. 

Dr. Brown emphasized the continued improvement of academic quality across the university, while creating a centralized university management system that set clear priorities based on strategic planning, achieving its goals through fiscal control, benchmarking, and periodic review. He underscored the central importance and interrelationship of teaching and research, with a focus on the interconnections spanning disciplines and programs. As a result, Boston University has strengthened its position as a leading private research university and deepened its commitment to quality residential undergraduate and graduate professional education and innovated in online education. During his tenure, the University's first comprehensive fundraising campaign, raised over $1.9 billion, while the research expenditures of the university increased to over $600 million annually. 

Important academic initiatives included establishment of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL), a national resource for understanding and curing the deadliest diseases, the Kilachand Honors College, the Pardee School of Global Studies, and the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering. A unique all-university initiative in machine learning and AI was launched with the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences and the construction of the Center for Computing & Data Sciences, the 19-story, 380,000 square foot, carbon-free building at the heart of the Boston University campus.

Prior to his appointment at Boston University, Dr. Brown served as provost and Warren K. Lewis Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, where he was on the faculty from 1979 to 2005. He has published more than 250 papers in areas related to mathematical modeling of transport phenomena in materials and served as executive editor of the journal Chemical Engineering Science from 1991 to 2004. He also served for 18 years as chairman of the Academic Research Council, the primary advisory and oversight committee for university research for the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Singapore. He was named an honorary citizen of the Republic of Singapore in 2005, and in 2008 was honored as one of the top 100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences. In 2014, the National Academy of Engineering awarded Dr. Brown the Simon Ramo Founders Award for his contributions to engineering and his leadership in transforming disciplines in institutions. He earned BS and MS degrees in chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. He and his wife, Dr. Beverly Brown, have two grown sons.

Dr. Brown is currently Professor of Engineering and Computing and Data Sciences at Boston University and is a frequent contributor to the literature on leadership of modern research universities. He has a forthcoming book.