Professor Richard Spontak Receives the Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal for Excellence

Professor Richard Spontak
Professor Richard Spontak

Professor Richard Spontak and four other NC State faculty members have received the 2022 Alexander Quarles Holladay Medals for Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by NC State and the university’s Board of Trustees. Chancellor Randy Woodson will recognize the awardees during the spring Celebration of Faculty Excellence.

Named in honor of Alexander Quarles Holladay, NC State’s first professor of history and its first president, the Holladay Medal for Excellence recognizes members of the faculty “whose careers have demonstrated outstanding achievement and sustained impact in research, teaching, or extension and engagement.” Honorees receive an engraved medal and a framed certificate.

Prof. Spontak received his Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Penn State and his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. Although active in a diverse range of disciplines, his primary research interests relate to the phase behavior and morphology/property development of nanostructured polymers, polymer nanocomposites and coatings, electron microscopy, and stimuli-responsive soft materials.

Over the course of his 29-year career, he has demonstrated a consistent track record of delivering outstanding original research in a broad area of soft materials, especially elastomers. His discoveries have helped to advance the field of elastomers technology and have resulted in many innovations with real-world applications.

Prof. Spontak develops advanced soft materials that impact contemporary technologies and provide a fundamental understanding of relevant scientific phenomena. Most recently, his research team developed broad-spectrum antimicrobial polymers capable of inactivating bacteria, viruses (e.g., SARS-CoV-2) and black mold to >99.9999% in most cases in five minutes or less, and these innovations are being licensed (they received emergency EPA approval for use by Delta Airlines in U.S. airports).

To mitigate global climate change, he and his colleagues are developing polymer membranes that are CO2 ultrapermeable AND ultraselective for inexpensive, scalable and effective carbon capture. Spontak has cultivated a collaboration network with researchers across different fields and across different continents, initiating a truly multidisciplinary and multicultural approach to his research. In addition to his extensive research, he continues to invest significant amounts of his energy in mentoring his graduate and undergraduate students to prepare them to be productive and successful within their professional careers.

An elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, and the Royal Society of Chemistry, he is or has been on the editorial advisory board of more than 20 international journals and holds editorial positions on three of them. He has received college- and alumni-level Outstanding Teaching Awards, as well as the system-level Board of Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest institutional honor bestowed by the University of North Carolina system. He has also received the 2006 International Network for Engineering Education & Research Recognition Award and the 2009 American Society for Engineering Education Southeast Region Outstanding Mid-Career Teaching Award, and he has served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist and an Erasmus Fellow.

During the current academic year Spontak received the 2022 Roy W. Tess Award from the ACS Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering, he was selected as the 2021 International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM) Researcher of the Year, he received a 2021 Tau Beta Pi Distinguished Alumnus Award, and he was the recipient of the 2022 International Award from the Society of Polymer Science, Japan (SPSJ).

A hearty congratulations to Professor Richard Spontak for these recognitions and your professional accomplishments that inspired them!