Belfort elected to international positions

PROFESSOR GEORGES BELFORT STANDS next to a notice about his lecture at the Institute of Bologna Academy of Science.

Over the last two months, Institute Professor of the Howard P. Isermann Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Georges Belfort has become a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems. He was also elected to be a foreign corresponding member for the Institute of Bologna Academy of Science.

The Institute, located in Magdeburg, Germany, is a member of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, and is named after Max Planck who was, according to Belfort, “one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century.” There are approximately 80 institutes included in the society, but Belfort mentioned that the Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems is the only one that has a focus on chemical engineering.

Belfort explained that there are Scientific Advisory Boards assigned to each institute. The Board of 8–12 experts in a given field of science, who each serve for six years, visit the institute for two days every other year. The institute they visit displays its research, the goals of the institute, and its plans for the future. The Board evaluates the research and direction of the institute, and give members of the institute recommendations on how to proceed with its business. The Board then compiles a report with their observations and submits this report to the director of the Max Planck Society, who is currently Peter Gruss.

The Board Belfort serves on is composed of 11 members. Of these members, Belfort stated, Martin Strohrmann is the only one who comes from the industry. The other ten members are professors. Belfort is the first member of the RPI community to ever be invited to the Society.

Belfort commented on his visit to the Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, mentioning that it was a “big honor.” He added that “everything was in English,” despite the institute being located in Germany and the entire process being run by German scientific experts.

The Institute of Bologna Academy of Science is one of the oldest institutes in the world. Although the website for the Academy is through the University of Bologna’s website, Belfort insists that the Academy and University are separate entities. Belfort is, again, the first member of the RPI community to be elected as a foreign corresponding member of the Academy. He is also one of three such members from the U.S.

Belfort was particularly interested in this visit, again stating it was a “very big honor.” While there, he gave a lecture entitled Configuring Science and Engineering for Molecular Separations: Thoughts from a Career. He mentioned that in the room in which he gave the talk, there was a statue of Galileo Galilei that “really blew him away.” The room was also full of paintings. Overall, Belfort felt that the aesthetics of the Academy were “terrific.”

Over the course of his career, Belfort has received numerous awards and honors from such organizations as the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the National Academy of Engineers, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. In 2008, he was named one of the “100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era.”

Belfort’s research involves high level biological and chemical areas, including “membrane separation processes, transport phenomena, interfacial phenomena and rheology, bioseparations and sensors, and protein misfolding and aggregation.” For more information about his research, interested members of the RPI community can contact Belfort at