Dotterweich chair Dr. Patrick Mills brings rich corporate experience to engineering higher ed
KINGSVILLE - June 07, 2006
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Spring 2006 marked the inaugural semester for Dr. Patrick L. Mills, professor of chemical and natural gas engineering and appointee to the Frank H. Dotterweich Endowed Chair at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Mills comes to the university after having worked in industrial research and development for 25 years. He served as a senior research associate for DuPont Company, in their Central Research and Development Department in Wilmington, Delaware. Over 15 years, his work with DuPont in reaction engineering for multiphase systems and process invention impacted many technology areas in the company, including Dacron, Fluoroproducts, Nylon, Lycra and Nonwovens. His time with DuPont also yielded the first successful research collaboration with the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India. He earned an Engineering Excellence Award 1996 for development of the MARS system, which was an automated catalyst testing productivity device. Prior to DuPont, Mills worked for 10 years at the Monsanto Corporate Research Center at the World Headquarters in St. Louis and also at the GE Corporate R&D Center in Schenectady, New York.
During most of his industrial career, Mills chose to teach and maintain close contacts with higher education as well. That includes appointments as adjunct professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware and Washington University in St. Louis. He also served as a research associate professor at Washington University from 1988 to 1990 as part of a team that commercialized a special-purpose reactor system for studying mechanisms of gas-phase catalyzed reactions.
Mills said he had been offered permanent faculty positions in the past, but the timing was never quite right. When it came to the Dotterweich Chair, both the timing and the position itself were just what Mills was looking for.
“There is the chance to participate in the creation and development of a new chemical Ph.D. program in chemical engineering,” said Mills. “Also, Texas A&M-Kingsville is like the smaller, private institutions I attended and taught at previously, which were able to provide closer interaction between students and faculty. Another factor that drew me to A&M-Kingsville is the chance to interact with the local chemical, petroleum and agricultural industries.” The latter will be particularly important in the future, he believes, because of the growing need for sustainable sources for fuels, chemicals, plastics and other materials used in commerce.
The Dotterweich Chair in Natural Gas Engineering was established in 1980 through a former student’s anonymous donation. Some of the duties Mills considers part of the position include innovative teaching, developing research programs, providing leadership and vision in his department and throughout the College of Engineering, and giving students the skills and the knowledge to thrive in their chosen profession—an idea, he notes, that was shared by his chair namesake.
“The days of just a single principle investigator in most corporations are largely gone,” said Mills. “Engineering is about working in teams and engaging many technical and business-related disciplines. We need to develop this perspective in our students. They also need to develop team leadership skills, to be able to express themselves clearly, to think on their feet, and to know the importance of professional ethics. They also need to function effectively in a multicultural environment. Continuing education is also important for professional development. Maintaining a high degree of safety awareness, especially considering the complexity of today’s manufacturing processes, is also essential.”
Mills notes the importance of cooperative opportunities between industry and other learning institutions in strengthening research and promoting A&M-Kingsville’s programs, especially in launching new Ph.D. programs. One such effort he has participated in since coming on board is a research proposal between the University of Houston, Texas Southern University and A&M-Kingsville. The proposal involves the creation of an Engineering Research Center on multi-scale engineering for sustainable ultra-clean and efficient power generation. The intention is to provide fundamental research, graduate education, and technology transfer for the development of zero emission power sources to meet 21 st century environmental, economical and power generation requirements. Mills finds himself working with former professional colleague Dr. Mike Harold, who serves as the Dow Chair Professor and chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Houston.
The Dotterweich Chair looks forward to developing new projects and interactions between his professional contacts and the university. Over the years, Mills has been an active member in a number of engineering societies and organizations, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Sigma Xi and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. He hopes to use these societal resources for developing undergraduate and graduate students within the College of Engineering, and to use these as a forum for gaining wider exposure for A&M-Kingsville engineering education and research programs.
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