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Dr. Anna Balazs receives 2013 Mines Medal from South Dakota School of Mines

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology News Release

2013 Mines Medal

Rapid City, S.D. (October 03, 2013) ... Anna Balazs, a pioneer in the area of predicting the behavior of complex polymeric materials through her theoretical modeling, has been awarded the national 2013 Mines Medal by the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

Dr. Balazs is Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, whose research has significant impact on the scientific world. She leads a team that predicted the behavior of Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) gels, gels with far-reaching applications such as artificial skin that could be sensory, "a holy grail in robotics," she said.

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology founded the national award in 2009 to recognize scientists and engineers who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and innovation. Balazs, who was honored Thursday night before more than 500 guests attending the Fifth Annual Mines Medal Dinner & Award Ceremony, joins scientific pioneers whose backgrounds include the Mars Rover mission and exploration of the Antarctic.

"Dr. Balazs inspired our faculty and students to ask themselves what are the most important scientific problems the world faces and work on them. For her, it is the line between living and non-living. If a finger can regenerate itself like a salamander can regrow a limb, if we can develop new sensors for prosthetics that translate pressure into neural impulses that allow someone to feel again, then we will have understood more about the science of living. She inspired us, by her words and her example, to force our minds outward. We are grateful for her work, and happy to honor her with the Mines Medal," said South Dakota School of Mines & Technology President Heather Wilson, D.Phil.

Balazs is widely recognized as a trend-setting researcher who developed powerful, comprehensive computer models to predict the behavior of nanocomposites. These studies provided critically needed guidelines for creating high performance materials formed from polymers and nanoparticles.

Her group developed the first computational model to describe large scale deformations and shape changes in chemo-responsive polymer gels. She has also made significant contributions to the area of self-healing materials and has collaborated with experimentalists at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

The materials and modeling methods being produced as a result of her work are far-reaching, with her research focusing on a diverse spectrum of systems, including nanocomposites, self-oscillating gels, self-healing materials and polymeric microcapsules.

Balazs focuses on developing models to capture the behavior of polymer blends, nanocomposites, complex fluids and colloidal systems, work that is "crucial" for designing advanced materials, according to one of her nominators Steven R. Little, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

"It is in this area that Balazs and her research group have made fundamentally important and unique contributions, which are allowing scientists to understand how choices made at the molecular level affect the macroscopic performance of the system." Little described her work as both "theoretically elegant and applicable to real materials of industrial relevance."

She has been a fellow in the Royal Society of Chemistry; a senior visiting fellow at Oxford Center for Advanced Materials and Composites and Materials Science Department, Oxford University; visiting fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University; and a fellow with the American Physical Society. Her work has been published in Science, Nature and numerous other publications and has been described in popular media outlets such as The Economist and Science News.

Balazs says she feels "extremely honored to be inducted into a group that includes such illustrious awardees."

Previous Mines Medalists include Diana Wall, 2012, University Distinguished Professor and director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University; Lee Rybeck Lynd, 2011, professor of engineering and adjunct professor of biology and earth science at Dartmouth College; Steven Squyres, 2010, Cornell University astronomer and principal scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover missions; and Cindy Van Dover, 2009, chair and professor of Duke University's Division of Marine Sciences and Conservation and director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory.


Contact: Paul Kovach