by Jennifer Boscia Smith and Jane Stoyle Welch
Published October 25, 2021
SUNY Distinguished Professor David A. Kofke has been named the first Walter E. Schmid Chair in Chemical and Biological Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The newly endowed chair was created thanks to a $1 million gift to the UB’s Boldly Buffalo campaign from the Walter E. Schmid Family Foundation. The gift has created an endowed fund that will support Kofke’s research enterprise, as well as ensure greater intellectual freedom for graduate students working with Kofke.
“I am very grateful for the generosity of the Walter E. Schmid Family Foundation,” says engineering Dean Kemper Lewis. “Gifts like this have an enormous impact on our ability to attract the best and brightest faculty and students, and enable us to conduct cutting-edge research to address the world’s greatest challenges. Professor Kofke is renowned for his excellence in research and education in the chemical engineering community and is very deserving of this recognition,” Lewis adds.
In 1959, together with James Meyers, Walter Schmid founded Chemical Design Inc. (CDI) in Lockport, where the company still operates today. CDI specializes in purification of gases and liquids using molecular sieves and other catalysts. Schmid developed many new processes that are still used in chemical plants today. One of these technologies was a leap forward in safety and reliability for air separation plants; another is critical for growing silicon for use in solar cells and computer chips.
The success of CDI provided the basis for establishing the Walter E. Schmid Family Foundation as a philanthropic entity, which also generously supports an undergraduate scholarship in the school.
Kofke is a globally recognized leader in developing new computational and theoretical methods to predict fluid and material properties and behaviors. His work is important to the chemical and materials manufacturing industries to ensure that products from foods to plastics to medications have the desired properties and are produced safely without harming the environment.
“Many of the methods that David’s group has developed here at UB appear in textbooks and are employed in academic research and industrial practice worldwide,” says Mark Swihart, UB Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. “Holding this prestigious endowed chair will enhance David’s ability to conduct his research and to train the next generation of researchers to independently advance these important research directions.”
Kofke, who served as chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering from 2006-12, is currently the department’s director of undergraduate studies. “I’d like to develop and apply new methods, models and tools that can guide my colleagues as they design and synthesize materials,” says Kofke. “Additionally, I expect that growth in this direction will produce new teaching tools that will help students to understand these problems, and build on our previous success in writing interactive molecular-modeling software to convey key concepts in the core chemical engineering science curriculum.”
He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). He has authored nearly 170 peer-reviewed publications and is the former president of Computer Aids for Chemical Engineering (CACHE), where he continues to serve on its board of trustees.
His awards include the Himmelblau Award from the Computing and Systems Technology division of AIChE, the Jacob F. Schoellkopf Medal from the Western New York Section of the American Chemical Society, and the triennial John M. Prausnitz Award for applied chemical thermodynamics. He also received SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching, and for Research and Creative Activity, and the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation.
Kofke joined the UB faculty in 1989. He received his BS in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1983, and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988.
This most recent gift to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is part of the university’s comprehensive Boldly Buffalo campaign, which is seeking to raise $1 billion to support UB’s students and faculty, and to increase UB’s impact on the world. Since the campaign’s inception, donors have contributed seven new endowed faculty positions in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.