R. Byron Pipes to Lead New Era of Polymer Research at The University of Akron


Akron, Ohio, Sept. 26, 2001 The University of Akron's polymer program already at the forefront of polymer science and polymer engineering is making another dramatic step forward in academic and research leadership with the selection of Dr. R. Byron Pipes, former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute president, as UA's new Goodyear Professor of Polymer Engineering. Pipes has already begun work on campus pending approval from the UA Board of Trustees at its meeting today.

Pipes, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, is a distinguished researcher in the field of polymer composite materials.

He will direct the Akron Global Polymer Academy, a newly created distance learning initiative that will be able to link to area corporations and school districts. It will incorporate interactive classrooms and laboratories for education and training in polymers at all levels, including opportunities for expanded research project conferencing, remote operation of laboratory instrumentation, work force training, graduate and undergraduate education, and K-12 science education. Delivery and reception of Web-based courses with other institutions, government and industrial laboratories is being planned.

"The University of Akron will break new ground with the Academy," Pipes says. "It will be a wonderful platform to expand the boundaries of polymer research and education."

He also is expected to lead new UA initiatives in nanocomposite research, in which reinforcements in the scale of one billionth of a meter are used to make stronger, stiffer and lighter polymeric materials for advanced applications in industries such as aerospace and transportation. The creation of such materials may lead to breakthroughs such as improved aircraft that are lighter and more fuel-efficient, yet able to hold more passengers safely, Pipes says.

"The extraordinary quality of UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering is attractive to anyone who works in this field," Pipes says. "It is on a short list of places where the very finest researchers in the polymer field would go. Under the leadership of Dean Frank Kelley and President Luis Proenza, I have found an environment that is extremely attractive for the practice of leading-edge scholarship and education."

A resident of Williamsburg, Va., Pipes was previously a distinguished visiting scientist at the College of William and Mary. As Rensselaer's 17th president from 1993-98, Pipes led a revitalization effort of the historic campus. He launched a faculty-led restructuring to create an enhanced learning environment for undergraduates through the use of cutting-edge technology, new teaching methods, a revised curriculum and the development of interactive, studio-based teaching methods.

Pipes' leadership at Rensselaer led to the university's receipt of the Theodore M. Hesburgh Award, the Boeing Educator of the Year Award and the Pew Leadership Award For Innovation in Undergraduate Education.

Prior to Rensselaer, Pipes was provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Delaware. He was also dean of the College of Engineering, and he co-founded and directed the university's Center for Composite Materials, which was named one of the first six National Engineering Research Centers by the National Science Foundation in 1985.

"Dr. Pipes brings a combination of talents that are truly rare in the Academy, in modern applications of instructional technology, explorations at the frontiers of research, and leadership in the design and implementation of new programs," says Kelley, dean of UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. "A special feature of Byron's career is that while he was in university administration he never abandoned his research. He currently has substantial research support from NASA."

Pipes' career has been recognized by many honors in research and teaching, including election to the Swedish Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences. His other honors include the Chaire Francqui Distinguished Visiting Faculty Scholar Award from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium; the Gustus L. Larson Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME); and fellow awards from ASME and the Society for the Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering.

Pipes has authored or co-authored more than 100 archival publications and five books. He also edits a book series now in its 13th volume.