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Purdue University Honors MU Interim Chancellor, Faculty Member with Distinguished Science Alumni Award

April 06, 2017

Story Contact(s):
Jeff Sossamon,, 573-882-3346

By Molly Peterson

Interim Chancellor Henry C. “Hank” Foley and Dongchu Sun, a professor and chair of the MU Department of Statistics, are two of seven alumni to be honored by the College of Science at Purdue University for their contributions to the scientific community. The two will receive their awards at a banquet on Friday, April 7.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was developed in 1990 by the College of Science at Purdue to honor individuals who have developed innovative and cutting edge technologies and who also have become leaders in their field. Currently, 234 Purdue alumni have received this award.

Foley has worked for more than 30 years to advance the study of nanotechnology. He is an inventor with 16 patents that include a plasma reactor that aids in transforming industrial materials into finished products, carbon membranes for small or large molecule separations and new kinds of carbon materials. He has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed articles on topics such as adsorption, a process that is useful in energy storage including hydrogen and natural gas, and nanoporous carbon.

“I am humbled by this recognition from the best of my scientific colleagues and close friends,” Foley said. “Early in the process, we knew that this body of work and research on nanoporous carbons was important; today, hundreds of researchers are continuing the work. To be recognized for many years of hard work in this field and at my alma mater is an honor.”

Foley earned a master’s degree in chemistry from Purdue University and a doctoral degree in physical and inorganic chemistry from Pennsylvania State University. He is a tenured professor of chemistry at MU and a professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Association for Advancement of Science, the Industrial and Engineering Division of the American Chemical Society, and the National Academy of Inventors. Foley holds numerous memberships in professional and honor societies, including the Computing Research Association, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda and Sigma Pi Sigma.

“The Purdue Chemistry Department has over 7,000 alumni who have gone off to amazing careers in academia, industry and a wide range of fields,” said Tim Zweir, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry at Purdue. “Dr. Hank Foley has risen to the top of his profession in so many ways, first as a professor with research interests spanning chemistry and chemical engineering, and then as an academic administrator, moving up the ladder from department head to dean to vice president for research, and now to his present position as interim chancellor of the University of Missouri.  This impressive set of credentials speaks clearly to his ability to lead and inspire students, staff and faculty. We are proud to count him as a Purdue Boilermaker.”

Virtually all of Sun’s research is in the area of Bayesian statistics, involving almost all branches of statistics. The goal of Bayesian methods is to improve statistical inference by incorporating information a researcher knows about a problem before collecting the data for analysis. Incorporating such prior information can result in much improved analysis. Sun has published over 120 papers on theoretical properties of Bayesian methodology and interdisciplinary research by applying modern Bayesian statistics to solve complicated practical problems such as wildlife expenditure in wildlife management, response time in psychology, vector autoregressive models in micro-economics, cancer mortality and incidence rates in epidemiology study, and time to pregnancy in reproductive studies. He has obtained more than $4 million in external grants from NSF, NIH and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“One of the most rewarding things about my research is following my students through their educational and professional careers,” Sun said. “I’ve mentored 28 doctoral students who have become outstanding educators and scientists in their own right; I’m honored to have been selected as a distinguished alumni.”

Sun earned a master’s degree in statistics from the Ohio State University and a doctoral degree in statistics from Purdue University. He is an ordinary member of the International Statistical Institute and a fellow of the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. MU awarded Sun with the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity in Physical and Mathematical Science in 2002.

“Dr. Sun has a distinguished career and is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute,” said Hao Zheng, professor and chair of the Department of Statistics at Purdue. “He has served on the editorial boards of several top statistical journals and has made fundamental and exceptional contributions to Bayesian statistics. We recognize him with this honor for his exceptional contributions to Bayesian statistics and to statistical applications in space-time modeling, disease mapping, wildlife management, reliability and survival analysis, as well as his leadership in academia.”