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08-16-2002

Matijevic Being Honored For Lifetime Of Accomplishments In Chemistry

Professor Egon Matijević just celebrated his 80th birthday. This renowned chemist remains an active, full-time faculty member and can be found in his office each day at Clarkson University – and often on weekends and evenings – devising new methods for creating and evaluating minute particles with uniform shapes, sizes and properties.

In recognition of a lifetime of accomplishments in colloid chemistry, and his pioneering work in monodispersed colloids, a special symposium in Matijević’s honor will be held at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Boston on August 18-20. The symposium is titled: “Fundamentals and Applications of Uniform Fine Particles: From Micrometers to Nanometers.”

One might wonder what significance tiny particles could have. “Everyone knows that rubber and steel have very different properties,” explains Matijević, “but not everyone recognizes that the properties of materials change depending upon the size and shape of the particulate matter.” For instance, water falling as rain droplets can be swept away by the windshield wipers of your car, but fog – tiny water particles – reflects the light back from headlights, can’t be swept away by windshield wipers, and reduces visibility significantly, leading to airport closings and automobile accidents.

Synthesizing particles with precise shapes, sizes and composition, and studying their properties, has been the life work of Matijević, a pioneer in this field. Through his synthesis techniques, Matijević can create particles that meet specific requirements.

Some applications are medical, such as drug particles of uniform size that deliver a medication more quickly and consistently, or asthma medication that aerosolizes more effectively, or particles for cell labeling diagnostics. Some applications take advantage of the diverse optical properties of different particle sizes, shapes and composition, and involve pigments for a variety of applications, such as color filters, printer inks and paper whiteners. Fine particle engineering designed to affect optical qualities can, in principle, lead to more durable house paint or iridescence in a new nail polish. Other work in which Matijević has been involved includes developing materials for multilayer capacitors, improving materials used in the production of computer chips, and mitigating water and air pollution.

“My research has involved projects ranging from lipsticks to nuclear power plants,” jokes Matijević.

Now the Victor K. LaMer Chair of Chemistry, Matijević arrived at Clarkson in 1957 as a post-doctoral fellow. In 1965 he established the Institute of Colloid and Surface Science, the first of its kind in the U.S. He has received many honors nationally and internationally. For example, he is the only individual ever to receive all three major awards of the American Chemical Society in his field of colloid chemistry: The Kendall Award (1972), the Langmuir Distinguished Lecturer Award (1985), and the Ralph K. Iler Award (1993). He was also awarded the Thomas-Graham Award in 1985, the highest award of the oldest colloidal society in the world, Germany’s Kolloid Gesellschaft.

Matijević has published 550 papers and holds more than 12 patents. Although he gave up teaching undergraduates a decade ago, he still maintains a busy schedule lecturing and offering courses worldwide. He has delivered as many as 60 plenary and keynote lectures at meetings and symposia in dozens of countries.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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