One of Lehigh’s own was recently named a DuPont Fellow, the company’s highest technical achievement and an honor shared by only 15 other active employees out of DuPont’s 60,000 worldwide work force.
Sweden native Bjorn Tyreus received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Lehigh in 1975 and went on to work in process control engineering and biotechnology. He currently works in the BioChemical Science & Engineering BioMaterials (BCS&E) division of DuPont Central Research & Development (CR&D) and is a world-renowned expert in systems analysis and process control.
As a Ph.D. student at Lehigh, Tyreus partnered with chemical engineering professor William Luyben and credits their working relationship for his gravitation toward process control.
“I had a fascination with computers and programming before coming to Lehigh, but working with Bill taught me to put them to practical use,” Tyreus says. “The distinction between modeling and simulation became clear in my mind, and I learned how to write simple models that captured the essential dynamics of the process they represented. Later, I realized that simple models could easily be combined to larger systems while still performing well on personal computers.”
Tyreus and Luyben went on to study the controllability of large interconnected systems and eventually developed concepts and ideas for plant-wide control, which became the subject of a book they co-authored in the 1990s.
Luyben remembers fondly his collaboration with Tyreus and, 35 years later, even wrote a letter of recommendation for Tyreus’s promotion to DuPont Fellow.
“Of all the Ph.D. students I’ve supervised over my 44-year teaching career at Lehigh, Bjorn stands as one of the best,” Luyben saays. “I’m very proud of him.”
A career evolution
From his humble beginnings tinkering with computer simulators in Lehigh labs, Tyreus is now recognized worldwide as a pioneer on process control.
One of his greatest successes was inventing and developing TMODS, DuPont’s internal dynamic simulator that allows engineers to simulate processes along with associated control systems. TMODS is still widely used at DuPont more than 20 years after its invention, a fact that was not overlooked when it came time to nominate 2011’s DuPont Fellows.
“Bjorn's career impact cannot be overstated,” says Henry Bryndza, director of DuPont CR&D's biomaterials effort. “As a world-recognized pioneer, Bjorn literally ‘wrote the book’ on process control and has used the principles and tools he's developed to improve the design and operation of chemical processes across DuPont's businesses. Moreover, he's continually reinvented himself, now bringing his insights, talents and tools to accelerate the development of industrial biotechnology within DuPont's businesses.”
After many years in chemical engineering, Tyreus recently moved on to the biotechnology field at DuPont.
“My interest in biotechnology started around 2000 as I observed how DuPont was looking at new promising areas for portfolio renewal,” Tyreus says. “I was fortunate to get some hands-on experience in biotechnology by consulting with a number of the early research programs before I finally ended up leading the scale-up and commercialization of one of them.”
Tyreus offered words of wisdom for students in Lehigh’s P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.
“Follow your instincts and work on things that stimulate and motivate you,” Tyreus says. “Don't be afraid to try radically different things once in a while. Switching from being a control engineer to leading a biotech research project was a huge change for me, but one that I found rewarding at all levels.”