Published: April 14, 2008

John Falconer, professor and chair of the chemical and biological engineering department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has been selected to receive the Hazel Barnes Prize, the highest faculty recognition for teaching and research awarded by the university.

Falconer will receive an engraved university medal and a $20,000 cash award, the largest single faculty award funded by CU-Boulder. He will be recognized at spring commencement on May 9 and at a reception in his honor next fall.

The prize recognizes Falconer's groundbreaking and highly cited research in heterogeneous catalysis and zeolite membranes for gas phase separations, along with his exceptional teaching record during 33 years on the faculty. He was named a President's Teaching Scholar in 2000, a lifetime appointment and the university's highest teaching recognition.

"Professor Falconer's devotion to students from high school through post-doctoral and his internationally recognized research clearly represents the goals of our highest faculty honor, the Hazel Barnes Prize," said Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson.

Falconer is internationally recognized in his field, having published more than 200 papers in refereed journals, which together have been cited nearly 5,300 times. He also has 11 patents on which he is a co-inventor, six chapters in books and six papers about educational methods published in the journal Chemical Engineering Education.

He has received research awards from the American Chemical Society Colorado Section and the Boulder Faculty Assembly, as well as three faculty fellowships from the University of Colorado Council on Research and Creative Work.

His research on catalysis has emphasized transient methods to study surface processes and reaction mechanisms. He recognized the importance of using temperature-programmed techniques to separate reaction steps and obtain new understanding of surface processes. He also was one of the first to apply these techniques to reactions on supported metal catalysts.

The technique has now become one of the standard methods to study catalytic processes and to characterize both supported metal and oxide catalysts.

In recent collaborations with Professor Richard Noble, the two have made significant breakthroughs in the development of membranes that can separate carbon dioxide and methane mixtures with high selectivity. An industrial sponsor is currently evaluating the membranes for a large-scale application removing carbon dioxide from natural gas without releasing it into the atmosphere.

Reflecting the true synergism between his research and teaching, Falconer has been a leader in his department in using undergraduate students in research, and he has made it a point to work with one or two high school students each year in his laboratory. He has co-directed a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in the chemical and biological engineering department for the last 15 years.

Falconer also is an excellent classroom teacher and has worked with young faculty to help them with teaching. He introduced the use of clickers into his department in 2002 and he has integrated them in his junior-level thermodynamics course and freshman-level chemistry for engineers.

"I feel incredibly honored to receive this award," said Falconer, "and I want to thank all the undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs and fellow faculty who made it possible."

In addition to the President's Teaching Scholar Award, Falconer has been recognized with the Chemical Manufacturers Association National Teaching Award, the American Society of Engineering Education Rocky Mountain Section Outstanding Teaching Award, and six teaching awards from undergraduate and graduate students in the department of chemical and biological engineering.

He received his bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University and his master's and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from Stanford University. He came to CU-Boulder in 1975.

The Hazel Barnes Prize was established in 1991 to recognize the enriching relationships between teaching and research. The prize was named in honor of CU-Boulder philosophy Professor Emerita Hazel Barnes, who taught at CU-Boulder from 1943 to 1986 and is noted for her interpretations of the works of French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. Barnes died March 18 at the age of 92.