05 December 2016

Roger Sargent receives chemical engineering lifetime achievement award

Roger Sargent and Jonathan Seville
Leading chemical engineer and Imperial College Professor Emeritus, Roger Sargent, has been awarded the Institution of Chemical Engineers’ (IChemE) inaugural MM Sharma Medal. The lifetime achievement award was presented at the 23rd Roger Sargent Lecture, at Imperial College London. It recognises his pivotal role in the definition and development of process systems engineering (PSE).

The Roger Sargent Lecture is an annual event held at Imperial College London and hosted by the Centre for Process Systems Engineering, founded by Sargent himself in 1989. It pays tribute to his vision, leadership and contributions in the field of process systems engineering. This year Professor Jay H Lee of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology gave the lecture, on the theme of mathematical programming and dynamic programming.

Sargent is regarded as the founding father of the process systems engineering branch of chemical engineering. He first founded the concept in the 1950s, identifying a need to focus on scientific engineering, as a counterbalance to the prevalent focus on engineering science. His 60 year-long career has been spent championing the application of mathematics and computing to the solution of engineering problems in the process industries.

He was a prolific academic and supervised over fifty PhD students during his career, many of whom have gone on to become hugely influential academics and engineers in their own right. Today Sargents academic tree runs to seven generations and has over 2,000 members.

Earlier this year Sargent received the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Frank Whittle Medal for an outstanding and sustained achievement to the industry. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday, an occasion that will be honoured with a special issue of IChemE journal Chemical Engineering, Research and Design.

He was presented with the MM Sharma medal by IChemE’s President Jonathan Seville, who said:

“It is an honour to present Professor Roger Sargent with this special medal, which commemorates one of the most distinguished Indian chemical engineers MM Sharma. To many chemical engineers Roger is a role model who has left a lasting legacy. The award of this medal recognises the extraordinary impact he has had on both academic and industrial practice.”

Professor Eva Sorensen, from the Centre for Process Systems Engineering at UCL and Imperial College, said:

“It’s difficult to think of anyone more deserving of an IChemE medal than Roger, and I’m incredibly happy that his impact has been acknowledged by this award. Roger is very much the founding father of the Process Systems discipline. He has, over several decades, spearheaded the development and application of mathematical modelling and optimisation based on system thinking – the basis of modern chemical engineering.”

On being presented with the award, Sargent commented:

“I’m quite overwhelmed by this award and would like to express my sincere gratitude to IChemE and those who have supported me throughout my career. I have been very lucky doing what I love for over 60 years, and to see it making a difference to chemical engineering even today is hugely rewarding.”

The MM Sharma Medal was established in 2014, with Sargent as its first recipient. It is IChemE’s ‘lifetime achievement’ award for academia, and recognises an outstanding, sustained contribution to chemical engineering research.

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