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Chemical engineering professor Hemant Pendse wins Distinguished Maine Professor Award

Professor of chemical engineering Hemant Pendse has won the 2021 Maine Distinguished Professor Award. This award recognizes a University of Maine professor who is committed to high quality education, research, and public service through their role as a professor. A committee of 17 people consisting of both students and staff gathered to select the professor for this prestigious award. Chemical engineering student Grace Farrington presented the nomination package to the committee and Dean of the College of Engineering Dana Humphry pushed for Pendse to win the award. 


Pendse is the chair of the Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Department at UMaine and also leads the UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation as the faculty fellow director. Pendse conducts research in colloidal phenomena, paper manufacturing and fluid particle systems. Work on instrument and sensor development in labs is also underway through Pendse’s advising. He has 82 publications in his field and has authored 200 technical papers. Because of his involvement with the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) at UMaine, he has been responsible for facilitating economic development in the state. 


Pendse helped to establish the FBRI in 2010 and currently serves as the director of the institute. Its purpose is to create commercial products out of forest based materials while investigating the logistic, scientific and economic factors of such projects. 


The UMaine News went into depth on his leadership with the FBRI. 


“Under Pendse’s leadership, FBRI built the nation’s first pilot-scale plant for manufacturing nano-fibrillated cellulose, or nanocellulose. The institute earned $48 million for various projects, $17 million of which is attributable to Pendse’s efforts,” UMaine News reported.


Pendse earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at Syracuse University and said that his experience at this university led him to want to become a professor. 


“I had opportunities to tutor several students and work with them in my research lab when I was doing my dissertation work at Syracuse University. The opportunity to explain the same concept in multiple ways to match various learning styles is very satisfying, and the combination of teaching and research activities as a professor is very appealing,” Pendse stated.


Being a professor at UMaine has been a very rewarding experience for Pendse, who says that there is always something to be learned from his students. 


“I have learned a lot from my students over the years, mainly that if you adjust to different communications styles you can reach a larger audience. I am constantly improving both my teaching and technical skills in order to be more responsive to students. Over four decades as a faculty member, I have realized that I derive energy from students both in the classroom setting and working shoulder-to-shoulder in our research labs,” Pendse said. I always strive to give the students both operating knowledge and an understanding of the broader context for the underlying concepts, which allows students to view the material beyond the confines of any particular course. Some students will speak up in class and others will talk to you or email you one-on-one. Others benefit from more proactive follow up. Overall, it means caring for student learning and showing it.”


 Pendse is teaching kinetics and reactor design, which is a mandatory course for all third-year chemical engineering students. Students in this course expand upon their knowledge of reaction chemistry and are asked to design reactors and predict their performance patterns. 


On Thursday April 29, the UMaine Alumni Association will feature Pendse and his Distinguished Maine Professor Award during the annual Alumni Achievement Awards and Recognition Ceremony. This event will be livestreamed on YouTube. 


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