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Shankar Subramanian Named Professor Emeritus at Clarkson University

Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering R. Shankar Subramanian was named professor emeritus at Clarkson University's 123rd Commencement on May 7. He was honored for 43 years of exemplary service to the University.

R. Shankar SubramanianClarkson has been good to him, he says. Subramanian grew up in India and came to Clarkson in 1968 to do graduate work. He began his teaching career at Clarkson in 1973, and in 1977, encouraged by then Chair William Wilcox, he and a colleague submitted a research proposal for conducting experiments on the Space Shuttle. The odds of winning were low, but to their surprise, it was selected for funding.

Professor Subramanian was the Principal Investigator of experiments flown aboard two Space Shuttle missions in 1994 and 1996. “It was exciting to be at the NASA Payload Operations and Command Center in Huntsville when the shuttle was in orbit. Two of my colleagues have flown on specialized NASA aircraft, so they know how it is to feel weightlessness for a few seconds," he recalls. "I'm not so daring. I'm perfectly happy just to do the science."

In 1978, Subramanian and a colleague, Robert Cole, obtained a grant from NASA that, with extensions, added up to a total of $1,259,973, worth over $4 million in current dollars. This was Clarkson’s first million-dollar grant. With subsequent new grants, NASA funded Subramanian’s research continuously for 28 years. He studied techniques for moving liquid drops and gas bubbles suspended in a liquid in a low gravity environment as well as methods for moving liquid drops on a horizontal solid surface.

While pleased and proud of his research sponsored by NASA, Subramanian is at heart a devoted educator. He says, “I enjoy teaching, working with others, and watching them learn. It brings me a lot of pleasure. Even now, after all these years, I get a charge when walking into a classroom. I will miss it."

Subramanian served as chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1986 to 1996. He says he enjoyed the opportunity to help others and shape the department's future, but he wanted to return to full-time teaching and research. "Little things happening at the right time and place" shaped his career, he says.

He is known as a superb educator, scholar, and administrator. He received Clarkson University’s John Graham Jr. Faculty Award for Research (1978), the ASEE Dow Outstanding Young Faculty Award (1980), the Clarkson Distinguished Teaching Award (1981), Clarkson’s Outstanding Adviser Award (1996), and the Omega Chi Epsilon Chemical Engineering Professor of the Year (2008, 2011).

He naturally has seen many changes on campus over the years. For instance, when he first came to Clarkson, computers were huge machines that people programmed using punch cards. The next day, after the program was run, they’d get back the stack of cards and a printed output.

"I've seen great advances in computing, but the enjoyment I've gotten out of teaching has been special," he notes. "You learn something much better when you teach it."

He has supervised 19 master's and 15 doctoral students, all of whom have gone on to productive careers. He has been an invited speaker at numerous academic institutions and professional conferences around the world, and has authored over a hundred scholarly articles and three reviews, as well as a book published by Cambridge University Press.

As for retirement, the professor plans to teach a small class in the spring on a voluntary basis at Clarkson in the spring semester to stay active.

"All these years, the University has been paying me to do something I truly enjoy. I love going in to work," he adds.

Subramanian received his bachelor of technology degree in chemical engineering from the University of Madras, India. He received his master of science degree and Ph.D, both in chemical engineering, from Clarkson University.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

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