Chemical engineering professor receives membrane research award


By Jamie Oberdick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The North American Membrane Society (NAMS) has named Andrew Zydney, Penn State Bayard D. Kunkle Chair, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Center of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology, as their 2020 recipient of the Alan S. Michaels Award for Innovation in Membrane Science and Technology. Zydney will receive the award during the NAMS Annual Meeting in Tempe, Arizona, from May 16 to 20.

The award, named for chemical engineer Alan S. Michaels, recognizes Zydney’s work in microfiltration, membrane fouling and applications of membranes in bioprocessing. Zydney’s research focuses on the recovery of biological products, which refers to the process of purifying monoclonal antibodies, vaccines and other biopharmaceuticals as part of downstream bioprocessing. His innovations include the design and development of important commercial membrane processes for the purification of life-saving drugs used in treating cancer and other immunologic disorders.

A member of the NAMS since 1990, Zydney was on the NAMS board of directors when they decided to create the award after Michaels passed away in 2000.

“Alan Michaels was a leading membrane scientist in both industry and academia (MIT, Stanford and NC State). His work spearheaded the early commercial adoption of membrane technology while also providing fundamental insights into membrane synthesis, transport and fouling. We wanted to do something to honor such an important figure in our field and recognize his many contributions,” Zydney said. “We decided that recognizing a significant leading figure in membrane science and technology was quite fitting given Alan’s impact.”

The NAMS board decided that the award should be presented every three years, starting in 2002. Zydney is the seventh awardee and along with it being a great honor, receiving the award is especially significant for him because of his professional relationship with Alan Michaels.

“Alan was somebody that I would point to as an early mentor in my career as I was getting into the membrane field,” Zydney said. “I met him at my very first AIChE conference when I was a graduate student. I was completely intimidated by meeting him because he was already a giant in the field — my Ph.D. thesis referenced many of Alan’s groundbreaking papers. But we developed a really nice professional friendship for the first part of my career until his passing.”

Along with this award, Zydney will receive the 2020 American Chemical Society (ACS) Award in Separations Science and Technology in March. Additionally, he is the most recent recipient of the Alan S. Michaels Award for the Recovery of Biological Products given by the ACS’s Division of Biochemical Technology. Other recent awards include the Gerhold Award for Excellence in Separation Science and the Excellence in Biological Engineering Publications Award, both given by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). He has also received multiple teaching awards, including the Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Delaware, the Distinguished Teacher Award from the American Society for Engineering Education and the Outstanding Teaching Award from the Penn State Engineering Alumni Society.

Zydney has published more than 250 articles on membranes and bioprocessing. He also is the former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Membrane Science and a member of the editorial review board for Biotechnology and Bioengineering. He serves on the editorial boards for Separation and Purification Reviews, Separation Science and Technology, and Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering. He was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers, the AIChE, the ACS Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Division, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


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Megan Lakatos