Chemical engineering and materials science professor joins the top 0.5 percent of society members

Thomas H. Epps, III, the Thomas & Kipp Gutshall Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and a Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineeringat the University of Delaware, has been named a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS).

No more than one-half of one percent of APS members are elected to Fellow Status. Fellows have made significant contributions to the field of physics through research, applications, teaching, or participation in society activities.

“It is a great honor to be elected as an APS Fellow,” said Epps. ”Several of my colleagues at UD are APS Fellows, along with many people who I admire in the polymer physics community. It is a great privilege to become a part of this esteemed group in physics.  I am extremely grateful to all of my students, postdocs, and collaborators who have contributed to my activities.”

Darrin Pochan, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Eric Furst, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, nominated Epps for this honor.

“Prof. Epps’ accomplishments in the research and engineering of block-copolymers and his service and leadership in the American Physical Society forum make him exceptionally qualified for this honor,” said Furst. “He is an extraordinary researcher and educator whose work has had a major impact on macromolecular and soft matter science and engineering.”

Pochan, who is also an APS Fellow, said: “Prof. Epps’ interdisciplinary work involving the design, synthesis, and physical understanding of new polymer nanomaterials reveals the complex core of modern materials and physics research.  His ability to wield such a diverse set of tools to succeed in his fascinating work makes him a perfect APS fellow recipient.”

Epps’ research focuses on four main areas: polymeric materials from renewable feedstocks, ion-conducting block copolymers for battery applications, nanostructured polymer films for templating and surface coating applications, and stimuli-responsive polymers for drug delivery and gene therapy.

Potential applications for his work are wide-ranging: from master templates for circuits in electronic devices to patterns for portable biosensing arrays that could screen and treat a wide array of diseases to targeted drug delivery systems to safer electrolytes for lithium batteries.

Epps is the 26th person to be selected for an APS Fellowship while on the UD faculty. In 2016, the APS also recognized Epps with the John H. Dillon Medal “For significant advancement in the control, characterization, and understanding of polymer nanoscale-structure and energetics.”

These accolades from APS complement many other awards and honors Epps has received in just over a decade at UD.

For example, he was awarded the Owens Corning Early Career Award by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 2015.

In 2009, Epps received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on young professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. In 2007, he received the National Science Foundation (NSF)  CAREER Award.

Epps earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota. He then was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Polymers Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology before joining the UD faculty in 2006 in chemical and biomolecular engineering. He is also the director of the UD Center for Molecular & Engineering Thermodynamics.