BSE ChE '96
New-Vision Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Associate Vice President for Research
Georgia Institute of Technology
As a junior at Troy High School, with a love of chemistry inspired by an amazing teacher named Ross Graham, Chris Jones (BSE ’95) was encouraged to become a chemical engineer. Given his strong interest in the University of Michigan, sparked by countless Saturdays in front of the TV watching the maize and blue play football with his father, he says it made sense that he would enroll at Michigan and pursue a degree in chemical engineering. He matriculated in the fall of 1991, not knowing then that his four years in Ann Arbor and at Michigan would cement who he was as a scholar and a person.
While he lived on central campus for his four years in Ann Arbor (Couzens Hall and Lincoln Ave.), most of his strongest memories of U–M come from his time on north campus, football games at the big house, or hockey games at Yost. During Jones’ junior and senior years, 1993-1995, he spent all day, every day on north campus working with a small group of friends on various ChE assignments. He had the good fortune to work with some incredibly smart people, including Paul Graham (BSE ’94) (Ross’ son—what were the chances of that happening?) and several other amazingly successful folks who are now MDs, ChE professors and professionals in industry. The hundreds of hours spent working together led to life-long friendships, and he remains in close contact with a half-dozen fellow ChE alums 20 years after graduation.
“Every ChE course remains embedded in my mind in some way, whether it be through memories of specific assignments and OEPs completed with friends or funny quirks of the lecturers,” Jones says. “I remember specific details of all my classes, in numerical order, by instructor: Johannes Schwank and Henry Wang (230); Phil Savage (330); Kartic Khilar and Jim Wilkes (341); Jennifer Linderman (342); Mark Burns (343); Scott Fogler (344); Srinivasan (360); Rane Curl (460); Costas Kravaris (466); Levi Thompson (486); and Dale Briggs (487).”
Academically, he was drawn to catalysis and reaction engineering and was greatly impacted by Fogler’s ChE 344 course and Thompson’s mentoring him as an undergraduate research student in his laboratory. By his senior year, he had learned three things about himself: (1) He knew he wanted to make chemical engineering his life’s work, (2) he knew he wanted it to be through research on catalysis, and (3) he knew he wanted to do it as a professor in an academic institution where he could mentor students.
After completing an MS and PhD in ChE at Caltech, where he studied under Mark E. Davis, he took a position as an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Georgia Tech (GT) in 2000. While Caltech was very different from Michigan, being intimately small, Georgia Tech felt in many ways like the U-M. As a renowned public university with great academics and outstanding athletics, it has been a wonderful place to grow Jones’ career on the strong foundation that was created in Ann Arbor.
Today, Jones is the New-Vision Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Associate Vice President for Research at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also the founding editor-in-chief of ACS Catalysis, published by the American Chemical Society, which is the highest impact journal in catalysis. He has been recognized for his research contributions with awards from the North American Catalysis Society, the American Chemical Society, and the American Society of Engineering Education. He and his wife, Shaney B. Lokken (BA ’96), live in Mableton, GA.
When students arrive in the ChE department, Jones says he is always excited to meet the other Michigan chemical engineering alums that come to GT, as they are invariably incredible talents. He watched Benita Kuo (BSE ’99) earn her PhD and is currently following Nicholas Burtch (BSE ’11) as he finishes his doctorate. He had the great privilege of advising the PhD of Weiyin Xu (BSE ’08), and is currently supervising the post-doctoral research of Adam Holewinski (BSE ’07, PhD ’13) before he starts his position as an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado. There is always an instant connection amongst U-M alums when meeting, but he feels an especially strong connection when he meets another Michigan chemical engineer.
Last year, Jones was invited to join the department’s alumni board. “I eagerly accepted,” says Jones, “as serving on the board is an ideal way to give back to the department by drawing on my experience as an educator and scholar. It also provides an opportunity to meet ChE alums from other eras, reconnect with faculty whom I first met as an undergraduate student, meet new faculty who have joined the department in recent years, and meet current ChE students. So far it has been great fun, and I look forward to the adventure ahead.”