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Harvard Chemist George Whitesides Named 2018 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer at Pitt

PITTSBURGH (April 9, 2018) … In recognition of his exemplary research in the fields of surface chemistry, microfluidics and nanotechnology, Harvard University’s George Whitesides has been named the 2018 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Dr. Whitesides currently is the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

The Covestro Distinguished Lectureship (a continuation of the Bayer Distinguished Lectureship) is presented annually by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and recognizes excellence in chemical education, outreach and research. The lecture is sponsored by Covestro LLC, a world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials.

“From his groundbreaking research in surface chemistry, Dr. Whitesides advanced the field of nanoscience and impacted diverse fields from electronics to medicine,” said Steven R. Little, PhD, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. “His innovations have helped to bridge so many disciplines and impacted the careers of several of our faculty, and so our department is honored to welcome him.”

“Covestro is proud to sponsor this event in partnership with the Swanson School of Engineering, and we join the university in welcoming Dr. Whitesides back to Pittsburgh,” said Don S. Wardius, Manager of University Relations, Covestro LLC. “Through his pioneering contributions to diagnostics, chemistry, biology and polymer science, Dr. Whitesides embodies Covestro’s passion for pushing boundaries in the pursuit of innovation. We’re honored to support a platform where he can share his insights with the next generation of innovators.”

Dr. Whitesides received his AB degree from Harvard University in 1960, and PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 1964 (with J.D. Roberts). He began his independent career at M.I.T., and is now the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University. His current research interests include physical and organic chemistry, materials science, biophysics, water, self-assembly, complexity and simplicity, origin of life, dissipative systems, affordable diagnostics, and soft robotics.

The Covestro lectures will be on Thursday, April 19 at 5:00 pm with a reception following, and Friday, April 20 at 9:30 am. Both lectures will be presented in Benedum Hall Room 102, 3700 O’Hara Street. The lectures are open to the public. For more information, email che@engr.pitt.edu or call 412-624-9630.

Lecture 1: How to Think About “Who Cares?” in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Thursday, April 19, 5:00 p.m. - Benedum 102 (Reception follows) 
ABSTRACT: Chemistry, and the world of science and technology of which it is a part, are changing dramatically.  Biology, materials, nanotechnology, and other less familiar/popular areas offer opportunities; the decline in invention in the chemical industry, and of productivity in the pharmaceutical industry, limits opportunities. One future for chemistry is the emergence of new fields; another is absorption by other disciplines. Every area of science faces periods of maturation and reinvention. What are the indicators for chemistry at this time? Does the history of other fields offer useful lessons?

Lecture 2: Simplicity as a Strategy in Research

Friday, April 20, 9:30 a.m. - Benedum 102
ABSTRACT: “Simplicity” as a Component of Invention. “Complexity” is relatively simple to think about (at least for academics); “simplicity” is more complex. This seminar will consider “simplicity” (together with an idea we call “stackability”) as a parameter to guide strategy in research, using two examples--one from ongoing large-scale technology, and one from our own research.


About Covestro LLC
Covestro LLC is one of the leading producers of high-performance polymers in North America and is part of the global Covestro business, which is among the world’s largest polymer companies with 2017 sales of EUR 14.1 billion. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, electrical and electronics and medical industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employed approximately 16,200 people at the end of 2017.

About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. ChE departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million.

Contact: Paul Kovach