Paul Kenis has been named the Elio Eliakim Tarika Endowed Chair of Chemical Engineering in a ceremony honoring his success and leadership in the field.
Kenis, head of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in his native country of the Netherlands before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Kenis joined Illinois in 2000 and began researching microchemical systems with applications in energy and biology.
Since joining the department, Kenis has received an Excellence in Teaching Award from the School of Chemical Sciences, has been recognized with a 3M young faculty award, an NSF career award, a Xerox award, as well as best paper awards from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine. In 2011, he was named a University Scholar.
“Paul is a renowned scholar and his work has won him numerous accolades,” said Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “I came across his name in 2010 during my time on the selection committee for the University Scholar award. I remember that I was so impressed by Paul’s productivity, innovations and discoveries... Since then, his scholarship has only grown.”
The late Nancy Louise Ertle Tarika established the Elio Eliakim Tarika Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering to honor her husband, Elio (BS, '49, chemical engineering) and to support his alma mater.
Elio Tarika was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up on an island in Greece. He attended a private high school in Great Britain before crossing the Atlantic on the first so-called Liberty ship, a cargo ship built in the United States, that sailed from Egypt after World War II.
“At the urging of his father, he emigrated to the United States after World War II to study chemical engineering,” said John Sweedler, the James R. Eiszner Family Endowed Chair in Chemistry and director of the School of Chemical Sciences. “While on the Liberty ship en route across the Atlantic, Elio discussed his college choices with American soldiers. On his list were Cornell, MIT, CalTech, and Illinois. The G.I.s told him if he wanted to get a true sense of this country, he should go to its heart, the Midwest. Based on their enthusiastic recommendations, he enrolled in the University of Illinois.”
While the Tarikas have both passed away, Sweedler emphasized that their generosity endures.
“Mr. Tarika was drawn to Illinois because of the university’s reputation and the promise of receiving an excellent education here. By establishing this endowment, the Tarikas have continued to advance the Illinois legacy of excellence,” Sweedler said. “Their financial support has helped us attract and retain creative and ambitious scholars like Professor Kenis and as a result, the educational experience of our students has also been enriched. The Tarikas have made a lasting, sustainable impact on future generations of chemical engineers, and for that we are grateful.”
Currently, Kenis’ research focuses on the development of continuous flow reactor technology for the synthesis of semiconducting quantum dots, and microfluidic platforms that enable either the study of the epi-endothelial junction of the lung or fast imaging of protein folding events, such as those associated with Altzeimer’s disease.
“I’m very grateful for the gift and what the resulting endowment allows my group to do going forward: pursue a risky idea for which we do not have funding yet,” Kenis said. “I would also like to thank my colleagues for providing an inspiring environment. This is a place that if you have good ideas and emphasize why and how you’ll achieve that, we can reach great things. It’s truly an honor to get this recognition for all the work we do -- we, past and present.”
Kenis also thanked his partner, chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Mary Kraft, for her support, as well as their 12 cats and six birds.