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McHugh named fellow of top chemical engineering society

New AIChE fellow Anthony McHugh says the best research professors “are very often the best and most inspired teachers in the classroom.”

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AlChE) is a professional organization of world renown. It boasts a membership more than 40,000 strong, with representation from more than 90 countries around the globe.

Each year, the AIChE board of directors confers the distinction of fellow on members who have demonstrated excellence in engineering for an extended period of time.

Anthony J. McHugh, the Ruth H. and Sam Madrid Professor and Chair of the department of chemical engineering, is being honored as a fellow this year.

McHugh, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Delaware, served on Lehigh’s faculty from 1971 to 1979 and on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1979 to 2002, before returning to Lehigh 10 years ago.

His accomplishments are extensive; he has published more than 200 technical articles and presented his work at more than 250 seminars at conferences around the world. McHugh’s research centers on polymer science and engineering, membrane formation, and controlled-release drug delivery, for which he was issued a U.S. patent in 2007.

“Being named a fellow is a truly special honor,” said McHugh. “Especially because it’s an honor coming from professional colleagues.”

When research benefits teaching

McHugh says his greatest accomplishment is the work he has done with students—at the graduate level he has directed 46 master’s theses and advised 36 doctoral candidates. These pupils have gone on to success in industry and academia, holding professorships at Northwestern University, the University of Delaware, the Colorado School of Mines, Oklahoma State University, the University of Tennessee, Middle East Technical University in Turkey, and Lehigh—his first Ph.D. student, Cesar Silebi, a professor of chemical engineering, earned his Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1978.

While he has many connections to other institutions, McHugh holds Lehigh in high regard.

“When you hire a Lehigh engineer, you get someone who’s smart, driven and prepared,” McHugh said. “Lehigh is a special place; several of the textbooks I used as an undergraduate at Cleveland State University were written by Lehigh professors.”

Since returning to Lehigh in 2002, McHugh has been able to reconnect with many of the alumni he’s had the opportunity to work with, including Dr. Michael Yaszemski, ’77, ‘78G, a former Lehigh football player and now chair of the division of spine surgery in the orthopedic surgery department at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Vincent A. Forlanza ’75, president and CEO of Beckton, Dickinson and Co., a medical technology company based in New Jersey.

McHugh has taken great pride in emphasizing the importance of research to students. He says the dual focus on research and teaching sets Lehigh apart from many other institutions.

“Some people feel professors who do a lot of research are less interested in teaching, but more times than not the opposite is true. The best research professors are very often the best and most inspired teachers in the classroom.”

Jeffrey Swanson ’11, one of McHugh’s former advisees, also took piano lessons from McHugh’s wife, Donna.

“I took one class with Professor McHugh, which was a research course,” said. “My research had a lot of failures, but he taught me that if something didn’t work, I need to keep trying new things and approach it different ways until I find success.”

Outside of his work as a researcher and a professor, McHugh is very involved in the arts. He and his wife contribute regularly to Lehigh’s Zoellner Arts Center. And together, they work with the Hausmusik Meet The Artist series, a nonprofit organization that strives to help emerging and dedicated artists achieve greater recognition. Hausmusik sponsors scholarships and raises money for recitals at New York City’s Carnegie Hall and other performance venues.

 

Story by Karl Brisseaux '11

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2012

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