McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine Affiliated Faculty Member Wins Prestigious Medal
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Anna Balazs, PhD, distinguished professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and also the current Robert Von der Luft professor in that department, has been selected as the 5th recipient of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology “Mines Medal.” This award recognizes the overall contributions of Dr. Balazs’ career, her influence in engineering or science, and the significance of extraordinary, meritorious, or prestigious contributions toward resolution or understanding of the technological challenges that impact society. Candidates for the Mines Medal:
- show evidence of being transformational individuals, often as rising or confirmed leaders in their fields.
- are scientific or technical leaders who motivate and inspire.
- have specific accomplishments in an appropriate field.
- further the frontiers and expand the boundaries of engineering or science.
“Dr. Balazs inspired our faculty and students to ask themselves what are the most important scientific problems the world faces and work on them. For her, it is the line between living and non-living. If a finger can regenerate itself like a salamander can regrow a limb, if we can develop new sensors for prosthetics that translate pressure into neural impulses that allow someone to feel again, then we will have understood more about the science of living. She inspired us, by her words and her example, to force our minds outward. We are grateful for her work, and happy to honor her with the Mines Medal,” said South Dakota School of Mines & Technology President Heather Wilson, D.Phil.
Dr. Balazs is widely recognized as a trend-setting researcher who developed powerful, comprehensive computer models to predict the behavior of nanocomposites. These studies provided critically needed guidelines for creating high performance materials formed from polymers and nanoparticles.
Her group developed the first computational model to describe large scale deformations and shape changes in chemo-responsive polymer gels. She has also made significant contributions to the area of self-healing materials and has collaborated with experimentalists at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
The materials and modeling methods being produced as a result of her work are far-reaching, with her research focusing on a diverse spectrum of systems, including nanocomposites, self-oscillating gels, self-healing materials, and polymeric microcapsules.
Dr. Balazs focuses on developing models to capture the behavior of polymer blends, nanocomposites, complex fluids, and colloidal systems, work that is “crucial” for designing advanced materials, according to one of her nominators McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Steven Little, PhD, chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
“It is in this area that Dr. Balazs and her research group have made fundamentally important and unique contributions, which are allowing scientists to understand how choices made at the molecular level affect the macroscopic performance of the system.” Dr. Little described her work as both “theoretically elegant and applicable to real materials of industrial relevance.”
She has been a fellow in the Royal Society of Chemistry; a senior visiting fellow at Oxford Center for Advanced Materials and Composites and Materials Science Department, Oxford University; visiting fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University; and a fellow with the American Physical Society. Her work has been published in Science, Nature, and numerous other publications and has been described in popular media outlets such as The Economist and Science News.
Dr. Balazs says she feels “extremely honored to be inducted into a group that includes such illustrious awardees.”
The Mines Medal, initiated in 2009, is a national award given annually by the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to honor engineers and scientists who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and innovation. The award highlights the significant role these individuals play to ensure the United States’ global preeminence in engineering and science.
The Mines Medal Award medallion includes images of the Homestake Gold Mine, a Black Hills grape leaf, and rays of sun emanating from a silhouette of the Black Hills. These traditional symbols of the Black Hills reflect the School of Mines’ longstanding connections to the Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota, including the university’s current leadership role in the Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake, and the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota that the School of Mines has called home for 126 years. Materials used in the medallion include 10kt gold and 12kt Black Hills gold in total amount equivalent to one ounce of 24kt gold, and copper and silver.
Illustration: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (medal image).
University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering News Release
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Mines Medal