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Bhattacharyya receives prestigious Alan S. Michaels Award for Innovation

January 25, 2023

Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., professor of chemical and materials engineering in the University of Kentucky College of Engineering, is the 2023 recipient of the Alan S. Michaels Award for Innovation in Membrane Science and Technology.

The award, given by the North American Membrane Society (NAMS), recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to membrane science and technology through technical innovations and exceptional lifetime achievements.

“It’s a great honor that among many outstanding membrane researchers in the world, I have been selected by NAMS. I’m also very fortunate to be a faculty member at UK. My personal success relates to having outstanding undergraduate and graduate collaborators,” Bhattacharyya said. “UK has provided me the right environment to expand on membrane and environmental remediation technologies. But my main passion is to make students highly successful through transdisciplinary training, which includes working toward innovations in teaching and research.”

The Alan S. Michaels Award was established to honor the late researcher — who was a pioneer in membrane science and technology. His work on ultrafiltration, membrane-based drug delivery systems and new membrane processes for the biopharmaceutical industry represented significant advances in the field. Michaels was the founder of Amicon, which was later acquired by Millipore (now EMD Millipore). 

Bhattacharyya has been a fixture in UK Engineering for more than 50 years and is renowned for his research, which focuses on incorporating life sciences materials with responsive and catalytic membranes for filtering, detoxifying and producing clean water.

Currently, the director of UK’s Center of Membrane Sciences, known to friends and colleagues as “DB,” also contributed his decades of membrane expertise to help address the spread of COVID-19. He, and his team of faculty and student collaborators, developed a medical face mask that captured and deactivated the virus on contact.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Bhattacharyya, along with collaborators across disciplines at UK, received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create the material. Their work was published in the Nature journal Communications Materials last year.

A fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the North American Membrane Society, Bhattacharyya has nine U.S. patents with his students and received Kentucky’s highest education award in three different decades. Additionally, he has 34 book chapters and two books to his credit, along with hundreds of refereed publications.

In 2021, Bhattacharyya also received the SEC Faculty Achievement Award.

“This most recent award further solidifies Dr. Bhattacharyya’s immeasurable impact on the fields of both environmental engineering and membrane science in his more than 50 years at the University of Kentucky,” said Rudolph G. Buchheit, the Rebecca Burchett Liebert Dean of UK Engineering. “The college, as well as the entire university, is fortunate to have someone with his level of expertise, innovation and skill — serving as a catalyst for solutions to some of society’s most complex challenges.”

As the recipient of the Alan S. Michaels Award, Bhattacharyya will receive a $10,000 prize and lifetime membership to NAMS. The award will be presented at the upcoming NAMS Annual Meeting banquet.