William L. Luyben, a professor of chemical engineering, has been teaching at Lehigh since 1967 and has written 13 textbooks, advised 35 Ph.D. candidates, and helped educate Lehigh chemical engineering students for 45 years.
He was recently honored by the American Institute for Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, for outstanding contributions in the field of distillation. AIChE has more than 40,000 members from more than 90 countries.
At the AIChE’s 2011 annual conference in Minneapolis, several sessions were held in Luyben’s honor. His former students, as well as academic and industrial colleagues from around the world, gave presentations about their own work in distillation design and control.
“I’ve been a member of the AIChE since 1954 when I was an undergraduate,” says Luyben. “I was encouraged to join as a student at Penn State. Now I’m a member emeritus.
“The sessions and dinner were gratifying. It’s always nice to get recognition.”
An “invaluable” preparation in industry
Luyben’s interest in chemical engineering began in a high school chemistry class, when he felt he was “solving real problems.”
His work focuses on process control (or “cruise control for chemical plants,” as he describes it) and the design of chemical plants.
Before he joined the Lehigh faculty, Luyben worked five years for Exxon in New Jersey and in Iran, and three years for DuPont in Delaware, which gave him broad industrial experience.
“I learned petroleum processing by working in two large refineries and chemical manufacturing by working on the design and operation of several large chemical plants,” he says.
“It was an excellent experience, and it provided me with invaluable knowledge that I have used in teaching the practical aspects of chemical engineering.”
Luyben’s first book, Process Modeling, Simulation, and Control for Chemical Engineers, published in 1973, was the first book to discuss all three of those subjects in one volume.
His most recent book was published last fall. Principles and Case Studies of Simultaneous Design outlines the designs of industrial chemical processes and presents basic principles of both steady-state design and plant-wide control.
Luyben has coauthored two books with his son, Michael, who earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from Lehigh in 1987. They are Essentials of Process Control (1996) and Plantwide Process Control (1998).
“Not too many professors collaborate on books and papers with their sons,” he says.
Luyben has no intention of stopping anytime soon. His family and teaching are his life. He is an avid part-time farmer and gardener, activities that he considers as therapy and recreation.
“I still enjoy teaching and contributing to my field. Lehigh has many good students, and it is a joy now to be teaching the children of some former students. I plan on teaching as long as my health and mind permit.”