Three faculty members transfer to emeritus status

Three faculty members were transferred to emeritus status in recent action by the Board of Trustees.

They are: David P. Billington, the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering, effective Feb. 1, 2010; Charles Dismukes, professor of chemistry, effective Aug. 1, 2009; and James Wei, professor of chemical engineering, effective Feb. 1, 2010.

David Billington

David P. Billington (Photo: Brian Wilson)

Billington joined the Princeton faculty in 1960. His courses combining the study of engineering with an exploration of aesthetic and social values -- including "Structures and the Urban Environment" and "Engineering in the Modern World" -- have been some of the most popular among engineering and non-engineering students for decades.

Billington earned his BSE from Princeton in 1950 and then spent the following two years in Belgium on a Fulbright Fellowship, studying postwar engineering innovations. Upon returning to the United States, he worked as a structural designer of bridges and buildings for Roberts & Schaefer Co. in New York from 1952 to 1960. His research at Princeton has focused on the engineering of large structures, including the design and rehabilitation of bridges, thin shell concrete structures, tall buildings and concrete dams, often with an emphasis on the intersection of efficiency and beauty in structural design and the transformative influence engineers have had on American society. He served as director of Princeton's Program on Architecture and Engineering from 1990 to 2008 and was named the first Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering in 1996.

Billington has earned numerous honors for his scholarship and teaching, including three Engineering Council awards, the President's Distinguished Teaching Award and the National Science Foundation Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1986 and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His books include "The Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy"; "Power, Speed and Form: Engineers and the Making of the 20th Century," with his son, David P. Billington Jr.; "Big Dams of the New Deal Era: A Confluence of Engineering and Politics," with Donald C. Jackson; and "Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist," with Maria Garlock, a colleague in civil and environmental engineering.

He received honorary doctorates in humane letters from Union College, in science from Grinnell College and in engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

Charles Dismukes

Charles Dismukes (Photo: Courtesy of Charles Dismukes)

Dismukes, who joined the Princeton faculty in 1978, was an affiliated faculty member in the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials and the Princeton Environmental Institute. He is now a faculty member at Rutgers University in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology.

Dismukes' research interests focus on biological and chemical methods for renewable solar-based fuel production, photosynthesis, metals in biological systems and tools for investigating these systems. His published works describe the biology and chemistry of oxygen production in natural photosynthetic systems, the synthesis and characterization of bioinspired catalysts for renewable energy production, and the use of microorganisms as cell factories for the production of biofuels from renewable sources. He is the principal investigator of BioSolarH2, a multi-institutional research center focusing on microbial hydrogen. He has served as an adviser to the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society and federal agencies on solar-based renewable energy conversion.

Dismukes has received fellowships and awards from organizations worldwide, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the National Research Council, the Australian Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. A graduate of the Lowell Technological Institute (now the University of Massachusetts-Lowell), he holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

James Wei

James Wei (Photo: Ricardo Barros)

Wei, who is now the Pomeroy and Betty Perry Smith Professor in Engineering Emeritus and professor of chemical engineering emeritus, served as dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science for 11 years. He has been credited with transforming the role of the dean of Princeton's engineering school, securing resources to grow the school and broadening the vision for engineering at the University.  

Wei is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and earned his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After working for 15 years for Mobil Oil Research, he joined the faculty at the University of Delaware from 1971 to 1977. He was department head of chemical engineering at MIT from 1977 until 1991, when he was appointed dean of Princeton's engineering school. When Wei stepped down as dean in 2002, President Tilghman lauded him for bringing a "new level of excellence" to engineering at Princeton. Since then, he has continued teaching classes on chemical reaction engineering and freshman seminars. His research has focused on chemical kinetics, catalysis, the conversion of raw materials to useful products and fuels, and chemotherapy of cancer. He has served on a number of government panels as an expert on the environmental impact of the chemical industry.  

Wei's awards and honors include the Founder's Award, Warren K. Lewis Award and Professional Progress Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Petroleum Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and served as editor-in-chief of Advances in Chemical Engineering, a journal devoted to informing a general audience of major developments taking place in the field. He is the author of the books "The Structure of Chemical Processing Industries" and "Product Engineering: Molecular Structure and Properties."