Associate Professor Wei Fan of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department has been appointed as the inaugural recipient of the Edward S. Price Chemical Engineering Faculty Fellowship at UMass Amherst for a three-year term. As key factors for Fan’s appointment, the selection committee cited his substantial impact on the ChE department, his leadership in the field of undergraduate education, his “world-leading research activities in the area of porous materials,” and his influence on “building an inclusive and equitable environment for students and faculty alike.”
The fellowship is based on a generous endowment established by UMass alumnus Price, the president and CEO of PCI Synthesis, a pharmaceutical development contract manufacturing organization (CMO) based in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The Price fellowship is also supported by the university.
Fan, who has been at UMass Amherst for 10 years, is a leading expert in the synthesis and characterization of hierarchical zeolites, which are very promising materials for maximizing both selectivity and yield of valuable chemicals during thermochemical conversion of biomass.
Fan heads the Fan Porous Materials Research Group, which he says, “focuses on the rational synthesis of nanoporous materials for biorefinery and drug delivery. The pore structure and size, surface properties, and active sites are tailored based on the comprehensive understanding of their crystallization mechanism.”
Fan goes on to explain that his research investigates zeolite synthesis for applications in sustainable fuel and chemical production, with emphasis on hierarchical porosity to allow for optimization of reaction / diffusion balance and use of hard templates for regulation of zeolite structure.
During his career, Fan has raised well over $1 million in funding from the Department of Energy’s Energy Frontier Research Center and via his own single investigator work. He was also awarded a 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award in 2014. He is the author of over 70 publications, including placements in Nature, Angewandte Chemie, Journal of the American Chemistry Society, and Journal of Physical Chemistry, and he has four issued or pending patents.
In addition to research, Wei has had outstanding success as a teacher, as substantiated by his selection as the 2016 College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher.
Among many other activities, Fan has served as faculty advisor to the UMass Student Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), has been an effective mentor for students by leading them in organizing very successful conferences, and has monitored students while they were winning awards both regionally and nationally. He has also served as faculty mentor to the Chem-E car team and has been an outstanding contributor to open house events and outreach activities. Besides all those activities, Fan has contributed significantly to the graduate program as the admissions coordinator for Chinese students.
In addition, Fan has served as treasurer of the New England Catalysis Society and was a member of the organizing committee of the annual meeting of the North East Corridor Zeolite Association. Beyond that, he has been the elected programming chair for his field in AIChE and has been responsible for organizing more than 12 sessions at AIChE’s annual meeting.
Fan earned his B.S. at the University of Science and Technology of China and his Ph.D. at the University of Tokyo.
Price received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UMass in 1990. PCI Synthesis, the company he heads, is the largest small-molecule, drug-substance manufacturer in New England and a clinical and commercial manufacturer of new chemical entities, generic active pharmaceutical ingredients, and other specialty chemical products. Price has grown PCI from a basic chemical manufacturer into the leading CMO that it is today.
As an industry thought-leader, Price also serves as a co-chair of the New England CRO/CMO Council and sits on the Industrial Advisory Board for the Department of Chemical Engineering at UMass Amherst. Price is a long-standing member of the American Chemical Society and advises the Bulk Pharmaceutical Task Force of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates.