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John Chen receives lifetime award for heat transfer work
John Chen, former dean of the engineering college, recently became the first recipient of the World Scientific Award in Boiling and Condensing Heat Transfer.

John C. Chen,  the Carl R. Anderson Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, added to an impressive collection of lifetime awards recently when he received the World Scientific Award in Boiling and Condensing Heat Transfer.

Chen, the award’s inaugural winner, was honored in recognition of his seminal contributions to boiling and heat transfer research. He was presented the award in June in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the Eighth International Conference on Boiling and Condensation Heat Transfer, which is held every three years in countries around the world.

A member of the faculty since 1970, Chen received the award for lifetime contributions to the fundamental understanding of boiling and condensing phenomenon, and for his ability to translate that understanding into better engineering practice.

The conference is led by an international group of researchers, with the goal of sharing advances in the fields of boiling and condensation. This year marked the first time the organizers presented an award.

“They surprised me at the conference by announcing that they would be having an award, which I thought was a good idea,” said Chen.

“Then they surprised me even more when they announced that I was the inaugural awardee. It was very nice.”

An enduring influence

Chen has won 18 national or international research awards and has published more than 200 technical articles. He is perhaps best known for “Correlation for Boiling Heat Transfer to Saturated Fluids in Convective Flow,” an article he published in 1966, which in 2003 received the Classic Paper Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

The article proposed a model for predicting the rate of phase-change heat transfer for flowing fluids undergoing evaporation.

“The model is now used to design nuclear reactors, steam generators, distillation heat exchangers, liquefaction systems for natural gas, and other applications,” said Chen. The model, and derivatives of it, are now incorporated into almost all the design software that’s being used in industry.

In 2001, Chen received the 2001 Max Jakob Memorial Award, the top international prize for achievements in heat transfer.

After completing his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in 1961, Chen worked as a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., for a decade before joining the faculty. His research interests and expertise allowed for him to be a professor of both mechanical and chemical engineering.

Chen chaired the chemical engineering department from 1983 to 1989, and served as dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science from 1999 to 2001.

He is a fellow and past president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). During his term, he established AIChE’s energy initiative and expanded the society’s activities into the international arena, urging engineers to seek technical solutions to societal challenges, especially in developing new sources of energy with environmental sustainability.

Chen is also a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a member of the American Chemical Society, and a member of the boards of the Chemical Heritage Foundation and the Engineering Conferences International.