L. K. Doraiswamy, an Anson Marston distinguished professor emeritus in the Iowa State University Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) and an international pioneer in the field of chemical reaction engineering, died June 2 in Danville, Pa., while recovering from bypass surgery. He was 85.
Doraiswamy was known for his outstanding research and leadership and his global network of academic and industrial collaborations in chemical reaction engineering. Top accomplishments include election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2010, five top chemical reaction engineering books, and more than 170 critically acclaimed articles in international journals, to name a few. Many of his methods have become standard in chemical engineering textbooks. In 1990 he received the Padma Bhushan of Government of India honor from Indian President Ramaswamy Venkataraman. This high award is given on India Republic Day to recognize achievement in the fields of science, particularly chemical engineering for Doraiswamy. In 2004, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers gave him the William H. Walker Award for Excellence in Contributions to Chemical Engineering.
Doraiswamy came to Iowa State in 1989 through a collaboration at the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in Pune, India, where he was pending retirement as NCL’s director. Through his leadership, he transformed NCL into a research powerhouse in India. The collaboration was with then-Professor (now Anson Marston Distinguished Professor) Peter Reilly, who convinced Doraiswamy to join the Department of Chemical Engineering (now Chemical and Biological Engineering) at Iowa State as the Glenn Murphy visiting professor of engineering. Doraiswamy joined the faculty permanently in 1992.
“He was the ultimate gentleman,” Reilly says. “I consider Doraiswamy the most accomplished faculty member Iowa State chemical engineering has ever seen.”
And for good reason. During his Iowa State tenure alone Doraiswamy gathered 11 national and international awards, presented five symposia, taught through a visiting professorship, and served on a journal editorial board. He lectured at 78 universities throughout the U.S. and internationally. In 1992, he was awarded the Herbert Stiles Professorship. Four years later he was named an Anson Marston distinguished professor – the highest honor an Iowa State engineering professor can receive.
CBE Associate Professor R. Dennis Vigil looked up to Doraiswamy as a mentor and good friend. “He built a research program here pretty much from scratch,” Vigil said, speaking of the chemical reaction engineering research thrust that now exists as catalysis and reaction engineering. “With this he was a generous, multi-dimensional man.”
In 1998, Iowa State University established the dual, international L. K. Doraiswamy Lecture Series in his honor with inaugural speaker James Wei from Princeton University. Every year a distinguished chemical engineering speaker, a “Doraiswamy Lecturer,” presents a lecture at both Iowa State University and at NCL in Pune, India.
Doraiswamy retired from Iowa State as Anson Marston distinguished professor emeritus in 2001. He remained active with CBE right until the day before his bypass surgery – he submitted an Iowa State alumni award nomination for one of his former graduate students.
Doraiswamy is survived by his son, Deepak (Kelly) Doraiswamy of Landenberg, Pa., and daughter Sandhya (Sankar) Raghavan of Danville, Pa.