Clock tower through the trees

Distinguished Lectures

The Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering hosts two distinguished lectures each year in honor of prominent figures in our history: 

Ray Thorpe black and white

Raymond G. Thorpe Lecture

An annual guest lecture honoring Ray Thorpe's dedication to excellence and over 39 years of teaching. The lecture was established in 1989 by Ray's many  friends and alumni. The objective of the lecture is to enhance the undergraduate teaching program by inviting an alumnus who typifies exceptional professional progress and service to the Cornell community.

Ray Thorpe was one of the best known and beloved teachers of undergraduate students in the history of the school. Sadly, he died in 2005 after giving over 50 years of service to the College of Engineering as a teacher and student advisor. 

Formerly an emeritus professor of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Ray received his undergraduate training at RPI in Engineering. He joined the Navy in 1940 at age 20, but was allowed to graduate in 1942 before being sent on active duty. He served as a gunnery officer in World War II in the Pacific theater. Ray returned to the U.S. and completed a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering at Cornell. Upon graduation, he joined Monsanto and worked there until his wife's ill health led him to return to upstate New York.

Ray became an instructor in what was then known as "metallurgical and chemical engineering" and became a member of the faculty shortly thereafter. He taught for three decades in Chemical Engineering, where he was known for the quality of his teaching, his high standards, and his exuberant stories.

Upon the passing of his wife Eleanor, he returned to Cornell's College of Engineering Student Advising office where he guided the careers of undergraduates for over a decade, giving them the benefit of a lifetime of engineering knowledge and life skills until his death on September 6, 2005.

Related Stories and Memorials

Julian Smith faculty photo

Julian C. Smith Lecture

An annual two-day lecture series established by the class of 1962, and other friends and colleagues, to honor Julian Smith for his commitment and vision in promoting academic research in the school, and for his service as a member of the faculty and as director from 1965 to 1981.

At the time of his retirement in 1986, Professor Emeritus Julian Smith had completed forty years of service to Cornell University. A member of the Cornell class of 1941, Julian was appointed to the faculty of the School of Chemical Engineering in 1946 as an assistant professor. He was named associate professor in 1949, and became a full professor in 1953.

Professor Smith served as director of continuing education for the College of Engineering from 1965 through 1971 and as director of the School of Chemical Engineering from 1975 until 1983. He guided the school through a period of unprecedented growth, increasing the emphasis on research and greatly expanding the graduate program.

Julian was a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and a member of the American Chemical Society. His textbook, Unit Operations of Chemical Engineering, written with Warren L. McCabe, was first published in 1956 and has been translated into Greek, Spanish, and Indonesian. The seventh edition (with Cornell professor Peter Harriott as the third author on editions 4-7) appeared in 2005. He also authored, The School of Chemical Engineering at Cornell: A History of the First Fifty Years, which was published in 1988.

Prior to his passing in 2015, Julian Smith had been a long-time advisor to the U.S. government on engineering education in the United States and abroad, and had served as a consultant to several major corporations on chemical process design and the disposal of nuclear waste.

Upcoming Distinguished Lectures

2018 Raymond G. Thorpe Lecture: Samir Somaiya (Godavari Biorefineries Limited)

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Friday, October 26
4:00 PM
155 Olin Hall

Samir Somaiya is Chairman & Managing Director of Godavari Biorefineries Ltd. and President of Somaiya Vidyavihar. Godaveri Biorefineries is engaged in the manufacture of sugar, ethanol, renewable energy, chemicals, biogas, and compost - all from agricultural resources. The company also works extensively with 20,000 small farmers in over 200 villages to help improve productivity, yields, and standard of living. The company’s products find use in food, fuels, solvents, cosmetics, fragrances, pharmaceuticals, mining, agriculture, and a variety of different applications.

Somaiya is Chairman of the K. J. Somaiya Trust, K. J. Somaiya Medical Trust, K. J. Somaiya Institute of Applied Agriculture Research and The Girivanvasi Pragati Mandal, as well as the Research Innovation Incubation Design Laboratory (Riidl). K. J. Somaiya Trust is involved in education, healthcare, and rural development in the States of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat. The Trust manages over 30 different educational institutions of learning extending from elementary to Ph. D. The education is imparted in diverse areas such as medicine, engineering, the arts and sciences, religion, vocational studies, education, languages, etc. Somaiya is also the owner of Kitabkhana in Mumbai.  He is Visiting Instructor & Current Advisory Board Member at the School of Chemical Engineering, Cornell University.  He holds a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University and Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, Master of Chemical Engineering, and Master of Business Administration degrees from Cornell.  Somaiya was awarded the American Institute of Chemists Award and American Institute of Chemical Engineer’s Award for Scholastic Achievement. 

2019 Julian Smith Lecture: Ignacio Grossman (Carnegie Mellon University)

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Monday and Tuesday, March 4-5
4:00 PM
155 Olin Hall

Prof. Ignacio E. Grossmann is the Rudolph R. and Florence Dean University Professor of Chemical Engineering, and former Department Head at Carnegie Mellon University.  He obtained his B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, in 1974, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College in 1975 and 1977, respectively. After working as an R&D engineer at the Instituto Mexicano del Petróleo in 1978, he joined Carnegie Mellon in 1979. He was Director of the Synthesis Laboratory from the Engineering Design Research Center in 1988-93. He is director of the "Center for Advanced Process Decision-making" which comprises a total of 20 petroleum, chemical and engineering companies. Ignacio Grossmann is a member of the National Academy of Engineering , Mexican Academy of Engineering, and associate editor of AIChE Journal and member of editorial board of Computers and Chemical Engineering, Journal of Global Optimization, Optimization and Engineering, Latin American Applied Research, and Process Systems Engineering Series. He was Chair of the Computers and Systems Technology Division of AIChE, and co-chair of the 1989 Foundations of Computer-Aided Process Design Conference and 2003 Foundations of Computer-Aided Process Operations Conference. He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Institute for Operations Research and Management Science, Mathematical Optimization Society, and American Chemical Society.

Grossmann Research Group