Retired Chemistry Professor Receives National Recognition
Robert Soulen, a retired chemistry professor at Southwestern University, has been named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.
Soulen is one of 96 ACS members who have been named fellows for 2013. The new fellows will be honored at the ACS National Meeting in Indianapolis Sept. 9.
Fellows are ACS members who have made significant contributions to the sciences and been active with the ACS, which is the largest scientific organization in the world. In selecting Soulen for the award, the ACS cited how he had utilized his background in industry to motivate and challenge gifted students toward professions in research, medicine, and education. It also cited his more than 40 years of involvement with the ACS.
Soulen joined the Southwestern faculty in 1964 after working as an industrial chemist for an Austin-based division of Texaco. He taught at Southwestern for 32 years before retiring in 1996.
Soulen was chair of the Chemistry Department at Southwestern for 20 years and held the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair in Science, which is one of five chairs at Southwestern that have been endowed by The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston. Soulen organized Southwestern’s first Brown Symposium in 1978, as well as the symposiums in 1984, 1990 and 1994.
Soulen was known for his efforts to recruit students for Southwestern’s science program and his ability to make chemistry exciting. At the time of his retirement in 1996, he counted more than 60 former students who had gone on to earn medical degrees or Ph.D.s. His former students include Dr. Lawrence Stanberry, a 1970 graduate who now serves as chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, and F. Fleming Crim, a 1969 graduate who is now a top administrator at the National Science Foundation and the only Southwestern graduate to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Soulen holds 18 U.S. and foreign patents and is internationally recognized for creating polymers that can be used in airplane windows to inhibit fogging and in paint to fight the corrosive nature of seawater on ships. While at Southwestern, he received more than half a million dollars from funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.
Soulen published more than 50 papers that were based on research he conducted in collaboration with Southwestern students and postdoctoral associates he hired to work in his lab.
In 1988, Soulen was named Texas Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and was one of nine national Gold Medalists in CASE’s 1988 Professor of the Year program.
In 1992 he received Southwestern’s William Carrington Finch Award, which honors faculty members for excellence in teaching, research, community service and furthering the aims of the university. Southwestern alumni honored Soulen in 1985 by giving him the “Mr. Homecoming” award. A student chemistry award and a lab in the Fondren-Jones Science Building bear Soulen’s name.
Soulen has been active with the American Chemical Society since 1965. After retiring from Southwestern, he was asked to join the organization’s Board of Directors and travelled 250,000 miles a year on behalf of the organization.
“As a young child I was interested in chemistry but I never dreamed I would be on the national board of the American Chemical Society,” he said.
The ACS has already given Soulen several awards, including its Gilbert H. Ayres Award.
Soulen is also a Fellow of the Texas Academy of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.