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Richardson Honored by Catalysis Society
Lindsay Lewis

The Southwest Catalysis Society, the local chapter of the North American Catalysis Society, has honored one of its founders for a lifetime of work in catalysis research and practice. James Richardson, professor emeritus of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, was one of three individuals honored with an Excellence in Applied Catalysis Award, a new award given by the society.

Richardson co-founded the SWCS in 1967 alongside Rice University Professor Emeritus Joe Hightower and Texas A&M University Professor Jack Lunsford. The chapter has since grown to more than 500 members from academia and industry in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico. The three were honored with the award at the 2011 Spring Symposium held at Rice University last month.

“It’s nice to have this recognition,” said Richardson. “It’s the culmination of our careers. We’ve all had success in teaching and research in catalysis, a field that is important to industry and will continue to be.”

Catalysis is an area of chemistry and chemical engineering that focuses on the preparation, properties and performance of materials that control chemical reactions and are therefore vitally important to the petroleum and petrochemical industries. Over 80 percent of the processes in chemical plants involve a wide variety of catalysts, concepts that are now being applied to the environmental and biochemical  industries. Most chemical engineers, at some time in their careers, find themselves involved with catalysis. For this reason,  Richardson and fellow UH Professor Dan Luss have taught a short course for nearly 40 years on the applications of heterogeneous catalysis, giving chemical companies a chance to train their new employees.

Richardson has been a member of faculty in the UH Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering for 42 years. He joined UH with 13 years of experience in catalysis research at ExxonMobil and holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in physics and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Rice University.

He has long been an active member of the Southeastern section of the American Chemical Society, the South Texas section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, where he has received five best paper awards, and the Southwest Catalysis Society.

At UH, Richardson has supervised 45 Ph.D. and 25 M.S. students, served as associate chair of the department for 19 years and chair for three years, and has served on the Research Council, the Undergraduate Council and the Faculty Senate. He has received the college’s Senior Faculty Research Award as well as the Abraham Dukler Distinguished Faculty Award, given by the Engineering Alumni Association. He retired in 2010 but is still active in research and teaching.

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