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Prof. Ponisseril Somasundaran named to National Academies’ Board of Global Health
October 16, 2018

Ponissseril Somasundaran, LaVon Duddleson Krumb Professor of Mineral Engineering in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia Engineering, and a world leader in surfactant science, has been has been invited to serve as a member of the National Academies’ Board on Global Health by Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine.

The Board on Global Health is charged with monitoring the broad field of global health and the pursuit of critical concerns in three major areas: U.S. policies and programs in global health; health problems in developing countries and health issues of mutual concern to the United States and other industrialized and industrializing societies. The board provides expert analysis and judgments to the National Academies, the United States government and other audiences on the meaning to the United States of health developments beyond its borders, and areas of U.S. international health investment that are most likely to benefit the health of the U.S. population and promote global well-being, security and economic development.

Somasundaran, an SME Legion of Honor member, is also the founding director of Langmuir Center for Colloids & Interfaces, a research center at Columbia that brings together experts from mineral engineering, applied chemistry, chemical engineering, biological sciences and chemistry to probe complex interactions of colloids and interfaces with surfactants and macromolecules, and founding director of the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Particulate and Surfactant Systems (CPaSS). 

Somasundaran uses his expertise to take on problems as wide-ranging as the enrichment of scarce minerals from ultra-lean ores, the impact of cigarette smoke on lungs, noninvasive ways to diagnose plaque formation in the heart, the cleaning of oil spills, and the behavior of nanoparticles. Increasingly focused on sustainability, he is looking at the “big picture,” studying the full scope of a product’s lifecycle, from manufacture and shipping to use and disposal, and inventing ways to reduce waste.

Author of 15 books and 600 scientific publications, Somasundaran was elected a 2016 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (1985), the Chinese National Academy of Engineering (1998), the Indian National Academy of Engineering (1999), the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (2000), the Balkan Academy of Science on Mineral Technologies (2009), and was named a Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2012). In 2014, he was appointed to the EPA Board of Scientific Councilors and serves as chairman of its Chemical Safety and Sustainability and Hazardous Risk Assessment committees.

Somasundaran has received numerous awards, including, most recently, the 2017 AIME (American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers) Presidential Citation Award, which recognizes extraordinary and dedicated service in furtherance of the goals, purposes, and traditions of AIME. Other significant awards include the National Science Foundation’s Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize for Technical Innovation in 2015; the Padma Shri, presented to him by the president of India in 2010 and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1990.