Regents’ Professor expands horizons of chemical engineering

February 15, 2012

Editor's Note: This professor profile is part of a series that looks at the achievements of seven outstanding faculty members who were named ASU Regents' Professors in 2011.

As a young college student in China, Jerry Lin didn’t think a degree in chemical engineering would take him far. Jerry Lin Download Full Image

“I thought I would finish college and work in a factory in China as a technician,” Lin recalls. Thirty years later, his degree has taken him around the world.

Lin was drawn to an emerging area of chemical engineering and his mastery of it would earn him a scholarship for graduate study in the United States, a post-doctoral research job at a leading university in Europe and faculty positions at American universities.

He became not only a leader in the field but helped ignite its evolution into a virtually new specialty.

His achievements put him in demand for conference presentations, research partnerships with colleagues and industry, and visiting professorships. As a result, he has plied his trade in more than 40 countries.

Now his stature has earned him a Regents’ Professor title – the highest recognition for a faculty member at Arizona State University.

Today, Lin is an internationally recognized pioneer of modern inorganic membrane science. In chemistry, membranes are thin, porous films of matter used to filter out or separate gases, liquids and chemicals from compounds on a molecular level. Such separation or “selective transport” methods are critical to technological advances in medicine, manufacturing, energy production and environmental protection.

Lin is also known for his work with adsorbents – often granular materials – that can selectively separate various gases and liquids. Combining expertise in materials science and chemistry, Lin creates new adsorbents and membranes and designs the processes for using them for specific purposes.

“We are extending the boundaries of what chemical engineering can do, and that is exciting,” he says.

Lin “was at the top of the list” when the  Journal of Membrane Science sought an editor for  its inorganic membrane section and was “highly effective [in that role] in working with others to advance that technology,”  says William Koros, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who is the journal’s former longtime editor-in-chief.   

Lin “is among the rare breed of academic researchers who have made scholarly contributions that are inspired by real-life applications,” says Rakesh Agrawal, a professor in Purdue University’s School of Chemical Engineering.

Richard D. Noble, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Colorado, says, “Jerry took a field that was an academic curiosity and made it a technical and economic success story.”

But such accolades are not all that motivates him.

“I am recognized more for my research and scholarship, but my students are what I consider my main achievement,” Lin says.

In the past 20 years, Lin has become a sought-after mentor, serving as adviser to 70 graduate students and post-doctoral students who are starting their careers.

“Some come in as raw material, knowing very little, but in four or five years become high-quality students,” he says. “It’s a challenging process that can be frustrating, but it’s rewarding when you produce good chemical engineers. It’s why I’ve chosen to be a professor, not just a researcher.”

His former students are employed throughout much of the world. The field “is attracting top people,” he says, “because there is potential to make an impact and to answer some of the big questions in science.”

To break out of his workaholic mold, Lin takes to the road.

“I like the grand scenic places, the major wonders of the world and the famous historic sites, and seeing different cultures,” he says, listing locales on several continents he has visited.

Education, engineering and science run in the family. Lin’s wife, Alice, is an elementary school teacher in Tempe. Daughter Iris is earning a political science degree and is headed to law school. Daughter Belle, who will soon start college, is “interested in science,” Lin says.

His two brothers are engineers, his mother was a physician, and his father was a government official with engineering training whose duties included managing power facilities.

Lin almost diverged from the family’s course early in life. As a teenager he was an outstanding swimmer, nearly qualifying for international competition. He applied to one of China’s elite sports universities, “and I almost got in,” he says. “After I didn’t, I decided to go in the direction of engineering and science.”

The loss to the sports world became chemical engineering’s gain.


Regents’ Professor, Arizona State University
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
American Institute of Chemical Engineers Institute Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology
Chinese National Science Foundation Researcher Collaboration Award
Li Ka Shing Foundation/Chinese Ministry  of Education Cheung Kong Scholar Award
National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Four patents, 10 book chapters, 215 journal articles and 60 conference papers and more than 300 conference presentations
Journal articles have been cited more than 5,300 times by other researchers with h-index of 42 (42 papers have each been cited at least 42 times)
$10 million in research support from the National Science Foundation, Department of energy, Environmental Protection Agency, the State Of Ohio and industry sources
28 doctoral student dissertations supervised

Editor, Journal of Membrane Science
Visiting Senior Scientist, State Grid Cooperation of China
George T. Piercy Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department if Chemical Engineering and Materials Science., University of Minnesota
Cheung Kong Scholar Guest Chair Professor, Tianjin University
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellow (1998-1999), Department of Chemical Systems Engineering, University of Tokyo
Co-director (2003-2004) National Science Foundation Industry/University  Cooperative Research Center for Membrane Applied Science and Technology
Conference chairman of the 8th International Conference on Inorganic Membranes and the 2010 Gordon Research Conference on Membranes

Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
Master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts
Doctor of Science degree in materials science, University of Twente, The Netherlands

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Regents' Professor is leading scholar of law, policy and science

February 15, 2012

Editor's Note: This professor profile is part of a series that looks at the achievements of seven outstanding faculty members who were named ASU Regents' Professors in 2011.

Gary Marchant always loved science. As a boy growing up in Squamish, British Columbia, chemistry sets topped his Christmas lists, and he spent hours tinkering with test tubes and colored liquids in a homegrown laboratory in his parents’ basement. Gary Marchant Download Full Image

But Marchant’s passion for a specific type of science was sparked by his mother, Elsie Anderson, who, cruelly, or so her then 10-year-old son thought, kept him home from football practice one afternoon to watch a documentary about genetics. Her decision, however unpopular, eventually helped him make his mark on the world.

“I was totally peeved, grumping around for the first half hour,” recalls Marchant, a professor at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “By the end of the show, I had decided I wanted to be a geneticist.”

Some 15 years later, Marchant earned his doctorate in genetics from the University of British Columbia, then obtained a joint Master of Public Policy and Juris Doctor from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School. He has since amassed numerous accolades for his knowledge, teaching, research and scholarship in the field of law and emerging technologies – the most recent accolade being named a Regents’ Professor at ASU.

“Professor Marchant is the first and remains the leading scholar on issues of law and policy and their intersection with science and technological innovations,” says Elizabeth D. Capaldi, provost and executive vice president of ASU. “His research into the impact of genetics, nanotechnology, neuroscience, biotechnology and other emerging technologies on society has helped advance the goals of the College of Law, specifically, and the university, more broadly.”

Marchant was praised by interim dean Douglas Sylvester, a longtime colleague and Center Faculty Fellow, who has worked with him over the years on nanotechnology projects.

“Gary is a fantastic scholar, teacher and colleague,” Sylvester says. “He is, simply put, the quintessential Regents’ Professor. I could not be happier for Gary on getting this well-deserved recognition.”

Marchant’s zest for teaching, thirst for learning and dedication to ASU is felt across the university. He is a professor in the ASU School of Life Sciences, a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability, and the ASU Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics.  

“He’s one of the leading Lincoln professors,” says Peter French, director of ASU’s Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics. “Gary is the exemplar of a Regents’ Professor. He meets all the criteria, and I think it is not only well deserved, but in the best sense of the term, he’s really earned it.”

At Harvard Law, Marchant was editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology and the Harvard Environmental Law Review, and he graduated at the top of his class.

He practiced primarily environmental law at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C., for nine years, and taught at nearby universities, developing the first Law, Science and Technology course at George Mason University School of Law.

In 1999, Marchant accepted a professorship at the ASU College of Law and became executive director of the Center for Law, Science and Technology two years later. A popular professor, he teaches courses in law; environmental law; science and technology; nanotechnology law and policy; biotechnology, law and policy; genetics and law; and law and research ethics.

In the past five years, Marchant has authored or co-authored 16 book chapters, five books and three dozen articles; has organized 12 major conferences and workshops; and delivered more than 140 presentations worldwide on topics ranging from the murder gene, adolescent brain scanning and robotic insects, to nanotechnology oversight, personalized medicine and human gene patents.

When he’s not on the road, in the classroom, testifying before Congress, or contributing as a member of a National Academy of Sciences’ National Research committee, Marchant is in his law school office. Books are wedged onto his bookshelves, newspapers are crammed into a cranny under his computer, and 4-foot-tall stacks of papers are everywhere that photographs of and drawings by his two children aren’t.

“I love my work,” Marchant says. “The greatest thing about academia is the freedom. When a new technology raises a new policy issue, I have to merge right into that and not worry that I have to do something else for a client.

“And there’s so much going on. I have had a couple colleagues wonder what their next paper is going to be, but I already have my next 50 laid out.”


Most recent book
"The Growing Gap Between Emerging Technologies and Legal-Ethical Oversight: The Pacing Problem"

Most recent publications
“Genetic Susceptibilities: The Future Driver of Ambient Air Quality Standards?”
“Physician Liability: The Next Big Thing for Personalized Medicine?”
“International Governance of Autonomous Military Robots”

2011 Professor of the Year, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
2009 Outstanding Faculty Award, Arizona State University Alumni Association
2007 Professor of the Year, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
2003 Law Professor of the Year, Maricopa County Bar Association

1990 Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, Harvard Law School (Class rank 1/540)
1990 Master of Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
1986 Ph.D. in Genetics, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia
1980 B.Sc., University of British Columbia

Other academic appointments
• Professor, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
• Faculty Director, Center for Law, Science & Innovation, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
• Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law & Ethics, Arizona State University
• Professor of Life Sciences, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University
• Senior Sustainability Scientist, Global Institute of Sustainability

• Member, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Assessment of Solid State Lighting
• Principal Investigator, “Governing Nanotechnology Risks and Benefits in the Transition to Regulation: Innovative Public and Private Approaches,” ELSI Grant from Department of Energy Genomes to Life Program
• Principal Investigator, “Adapting Law to Rapid Technological Change,” National Science Foundation
• Principal Investigator, “Mechanisms for Transnational Coordination and Harmonization of Nanotechnology Governance,” ELSI Grant from Department of Energy Genomes to Life Program
• Principal Investigator, “Genetic Susceptibility and Environmental Regulation,” R01 Grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Janie Magruder
Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Lisa Robbins

Editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications