A native Pennsylvanian, Dr. Mark E. Davis was born in Ellwood City and raised in the city of Erie. He enrolled at the University of Kentucky after receiving a track and field scholarship. He was a member of the varsity track team, lettering in track. He received the University’s award for outstanding scholar-athlete from among students in all varsity sports at the University. Dr. Davis received the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1977, 1978 and 1981 respectively.
Immediately upon his graduation, Dr. Davis joined the faculty at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI) as an assistant professor of chemical engineering. At VPI, Dr. Davis began his stellar academic and scientific career in the area of catalysis and molecular sieves. In 1985 he received the highly prestigious Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. That same year he received the Dow Outstanding Young Faculty Award from the American Society of Engineering Education.
In 1990, Dr. Davis received the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation. This prize is considered the federal government’s most prestigious scientific award and recognizes an outstanding young researcher (35 years or younger) in any field of science or engineering supported by NSF. It marked the first time in the award’s history it was bestowed upon an engineer.
Dr. Davis joined the chemical engineering faculty at the California Institute of Technology in 1991 and was named the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1993. He was the department head of chemical engineering from 1999 to 2004. He has continued his pioneering work in the areas of catalysis and biomaterials. This work has elevated Dr. Davis to one of the world’s pre-eminent authorities in his field. He received the Ipatieff Prize in 1992 from the American Chemical Society recognizing outstanding chemical experimental work in the field of catalysis or high pressure, by those not over forty years of age. In 1995 he received the Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis from the North American Catalysis Society recognizing and encouraging individual contributions in the field of catalysis.
Additionally, he has been honored with the Miles Distinguished Lectureship, University of Pittsburgh (1993); G. C. A. Schuit Lecture, University of Delaware (1993); Dexter F. Baker Distinguished Lectureship, Lehigh University (1994); Paul H. Emmett Award – North American Catalysis Society (1995); Cross Canada Lecture Tour, Catalysis Division, The Chemical Institute of Canada (1996); National Academy of Engineering (1997); H. Hottel Lectureship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1997); Hollingsworth Lectureship in Engineering, University of Texas at Austin (1997); Margaret C. Etter Memorial Lectureship, University of Minnesota (1999); Engineering Hall of Distinction, University of Kentucky (1999); Julian C. Smith Lectureship in Chemical Engineering, Cornell University (1999); Langmuir Lecture, American Chemical Society (1999); Professional Progress Award, AIChE (1999); Joe Smith Distinguished Lectureship, University of California, Davis (1999); David Mason Lecture, Stanford University (2000); Patten Distinguished Lecture, University of Colorado, Boulder (2002); Berkeley Lectures, University of California, Berkeley (2002); Reilly Lectureship, University of Notre Dame (2002); Kelly Lectureship, Purdue University (2002); Distinguished Research Lectureship, Carnegie-Mellon University (2002); Yale Engineering Sesquicentennial Distinguished Lecturer and Tetelman Fellow Faculty of Engineering, Yale University (2002); Tis Lahiri Memorial Seminar, Vanderbilt University (2004); Conoco Phillips Lectureship, Oklahoma State University (2004); American Chemical Society: E.V. Murphree Award (2005); Texas Distinguished Faculty Lecture, University of Texas (2005); and University of Kentucky Ashland Distinguished Lecture (2006).
In 1997 Dr. Davis received what is perhaps the most prestigious of honors for an engineer: induction into the National Academy of Engineering. His citation read for “pioneering work in the synthesis of new catalytic materials.” In addition he received the Allan P. Colburn award and Professional Progress award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; and Ipatieff Prize and E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. In 2006, he was named to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Davis is in an elite group of distinguished engineers and scientists who have memberships in both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Davis is a prolific author with more than 350 refereed journal publications. He is the author or editor of six books and has made more than 450 presentations. Dr. Davis holds over 35 patents.
He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Chemical Society, the Materials Research Society, and the American Society for Gene Therapy professional organizations, and of Phi Eta Sigma, Omega Chi Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor societies.
Dr. Davis is married to Mary P. Davis. They reside in Pasadena, California with their three children, daughter Erica, and twin sons Andrew and Christopher. He enjoys underwater photography and remains an avid runner.