Chemical engineering celebrates the career of James Vrentas following retirement announcement


James Vrentas, Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering, has announced plans for retirement following a 36-year career with the department.

Vrentas, who came to Penn State in 1980, will officially retire June 30, 2016. 

Prior to joining Penn State, Vrentas worked ten years in the Process Fundamentals Laboratory at Dow Chemical Company, and for eight years, was a professor of chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

For his research on diffusion and fluid mechanics, including the free volume theory of diffusion, he was awarded the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ William H. Walker Award for Excellence in Contributions to Chemical Engineering Literature (1981) and the Charles M. A. Stine Materials Engineering and Science Award (1989), as well as the Penn State Engineering Alumni Society’s (PSEAS) Outstanding Research Award (1984) and Premier Research Award (1991).

Additionally, he was awarded PSEAS’s Outstanding Teaching Award (1985) and was named Outstanding Professor by chemical engineering graduate students from 1983 -1985 (the award was discontinued in 1985). 

In 1985, he was appointed the Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Vrentas has authored over 170 refereed articles.  Together with his wife Christine Vrentas, an adjunct professor in the department, he has written a 644-page graduate level transport book, “Diffusion and Mass Transfer,” published in 2013. 

At Penn State, Vrentas has taught graduate courses in Transport Phenomena, Mass Transfer, and Mathematics of Chemical Engineering as well as undergraduate courses in Fluid Mechanics, Heat Transfer, Thermodynamics, and the Chemical Engineering Laboratory course all using his own notes which he developed.

He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois and his master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware.

Vrentas’ areas of expertise are applied mathematics, fluid mechanics, diffusion, polymer science, and theoretical studies in transport phenomena.


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James Vrentas, Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering, has announced plans to retire from the Department of Chemical Engineering on June 30, 2016.

Vrentas began his Penn State career in 1980; serving as a valued educator, adviser and researcher at the University for over 36 years. 



The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

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Phone: 814-865-2574