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14. William B. Russel

William Russel

Princeton University. Property of the Trustees of Princeton University.

Professor William Bailey Russel

William Bailey Russel (1945-present) was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1945. He received B.A. and M.ChE. degrees in chemical engineering from Rice University in 1969. He then moved to Palo Alto, California, to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Stanford University, where he worked with Andreas Acrivos on the “effective moduli of composite materials.” He was awarded his doctoral degree in 1973 and was appointed an assistant professor in the chemical engineering department of Princeton University in 1974. He was promoted to associate professor in 1979, to professor in 1983, and became chair of the chemical engineering department in 1987.

After serving nine years as chair, Bill went on to serve as director of the Princeton Materials Institute (PMI) in 1996–1998, and principal investigator for the Princeton Center for Complex Materials (PCCM) and the National Science Foundation-sponsored Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Both PMI and PCCM brought together researchers from a range of science and engineering departments across campus for teaching and research, and PCCM helped to launch the careers of many Princeton faculty.

Bill possessed a strong sense of responsibility to the broader profession as well, as evinced through his outstanding, substantive, and dedicated leadership in the Society of Rheology (twelve years of service including serving as president from 2001–03), and service on committees for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), American Chemical Society, Materials Research Society, National Academy of Engineering, and on advisory boards of academic departments and units.

Bill’s long and highly distinguished research career focused on the phase behavior, structure, and dynamics of colloidal systems. Early in his career, Bill proposed an elegant and insightful theory for polymer-induced phase separations in colloidal suspensions; by successfully explaining the physical basis for this phenomenon, it became the basis for the rational engineering design of polymerstabilized colloidal suspensions, with applications ranging from pollution prevention to the formulation of paints and cosmetics. Bill’s group performed definitive experiments, both in normal gravity and in microgravity, using temperature, electrical fields, and gravity to control the structure, growth kinetics, and density of colloidal crystals. Key results included the determination of the equation of state of hard spheres across the fluid-crystal transition, the detailed measurement of nucleation and growth rates, and the determination of elastic constants for hard sphere crystals. Another area in which Bill made major contributions was in the rheology, consolidation, and collapse of colloidal gels. The implications and applications of these studies included the formulation of paints, protein separations, and industrial waste treatment. The distinguishing characteristic of Bill’s numerous technical accomplishments was their solid grounding in theory (fluid mechanics, transport phenomena, and statistical mechanics), combined with the use of a wide array of experimental methods (rheo-optics, microscopy, dynamic light scattering, electrophoresis, and dielectric spectroscopy).

In addition to his approximately 200 technical articles in peer-reviewed journals, Bill also had several books to his credit. His magnum opus is the book Colloidal Dispersions with Princeton colleagues D. A. Saville and W. R. Schowalter, published by Cambridge University Press in 1989 and reprinted as a paperback in 1991. This textbook was required reading for any serious practitioner of colloid science, rheology, and nanoscience and technology, and was widely considered to be the definitive reference in the field, even twenty-five years after publication. In addition, his lectures as an Olaf A. Hougen Visiting Professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Wisconsin – Madison, were published as a monograph in 1987, and his Debye lecture notes at the Utrecht University were published as a monograph in 2001. He was also the co-inventor on a U.S. patent issued in 2009.

His many awards and honors included election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1992, and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012), awarded the William H. Walker Award for Excellence in Contributions to Chemical Engineering Literature (1992) and the Alpha Chi Sigma Award for Chemical Engineering Research (2010) from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

An exemplary mentor, Bill was the Ph.D. adviser or co-adviser for forty doctoral students, including several who went on to become highly respected leaders in academia and industry. For example, Alice Gast, who received her Ph.D. with Bill in 1984 (co-advised with Carol Hall), is currently president of Imperial College London, following a position as president of Lehigh University.

Graduate School Dean

William Russel

Russel in full regalia.

Following a brief stint back in chemical engineering (which included a semester as acting chair), Bill became dean of the Graduate School in 2002. He was the first engineer to be appointed to that position. Some of the most notable broad impacts of Bill’s tenure as dean of Princeton’s Graduate School was the establishment of an annual reenrollment process, the creation of the “Dissertation Completion Enrollment” (DCE) status, a concerted effort to increase diversity in the graduate student body, and planning and construction of the Lakeside apartments.

Russel said he enjoyed “participating in the forward-thinking leadership of senior officers of the University, collaborating with outstanding faculty members, getting to know very bright and creative graduate students, and working with a highly skilled and dedicated staff.”

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgrueber, who served as provost from 2004 to 2013 and worked closely with Russel over a decade, noted: “Bill Russel’s leadership has enhanced Princeton’s Graduate School in ways too numerous to count. He has sustained academic excellence, improved our stipend and support system for graduate students, integrated those students more fully into the University community, and strengthened the ties that bind the University to its graduate alumni. Bill Russel has given unselfishly to this University, and his legacy will benefit our graduate students, and Princeton more generally, for many years to come.”

Russel noted that he was proud of many improvements spanning academics, recruitment, student life, financial aid and alumni relations, recognizing that “little is accomplished by the dean and Graduate School staff alone without support or initiative from the provost, the president and other offices of the University.” The changes Russel oversaw included the following:

• Improving the academic curriculum, including the differentiation of the biological sciences with the establishment of Ph.D. programs in quantitative and computational biology and neuroscience and the creation of the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities, initiated through the leadership of then-provost Eisgruber.

• Using modern measures to monitor progress of Ph.D. students through the annual reenrollment to identify sooner students who were struggling.

• Instituting summer stipends for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences that allowed them to pursue their academic work throughout the year.

• Increasing diversity among the graduate student body through the efforts of the Graduate School’s associate dean for academics and diversity, through recruiting, mentoring, creating programming and bringing students to degree completion.

• Steadily expanding professional development programming, created by dedicated staff in the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the Princeton Writing program, and Career Services, to better prepare graduate students for their careers.

• Making substantial improvements in student life, as judged against a 2002 report of the Graduate Student Government. They included the creation of the Dissertation Completion Enrollment status to enable Ph.D. students who had not completed their dissertation within the typical five-year period to have access and often support for up to two more years; improvements in parking and transportation, such as a campus shuttle to the Graduate College; and increased support for graduate students with children through programs such as the Childbirth Accommodation and Adoption Policy, Student Child Care Assistance Program, and Carebridge program for assistance with work, personal or family issues.

• Increasing investment in graduate student housing to replace the Butler Apartments and Hibben and Magie apartments with a modern set of apartment on Lake Carnegie, to support a commitment to house 70 percent of regularly enrolled graduate students.

• Strengthening the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni, leading to the creation of graduate alumni staff in the Alumni Association shared with the Graduate School, who planned the University’s first graduate alumni conference, “ Many Minds, Many Stripes: A Princeton University Conference for Graduate Alumni,” held in October 2002.

• Surveying of graduate students and graduate alumni, conducted by the vice provost for institutional research, to assess graduate programs.

• Expanding the Graduate School staff, with essential support from the Office of the Provost, to provide the capacity to support programming more effectively.

At the national level, Russel said he also enjoyed collaborating with other deans around the country through his participation on the executive committees of the Council of Graduate Schools and Association of Graduate Schools.

During his tenure as dean, Russel continued his research in processing, structure, properties and applications of colloidal dispersions — for example, explaining why paint cracks and gels sometimes collapse.

After a year’s sabbatical, Russel, the Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Chemical Engineering transferred to emeritus status after 43 years on the Princeton faculty.


Princeton University Honors Faculty Members Receiving Emeritus Status, May 2017 William B. Russel

Russel to step down as Graduate School dean; search committee set by Ushma Patel, Office of Communications, September 11, 2013

Other References:

Princeton University Library

Princeton Alumni Weekly, Q&A: William B. Russel Beyond the Academy

Chemical and Biological Engineering: William B. Russel

Wikipedia: William B. Russel