Hall of Distinction Class of 1982-1983

N.Y. Chen is the professional engineer who represents the consummate success story of a university student and an example of the student life every university professor hopes to be able to touch. Dr. Chen is currently a senior scientist and manager of Exploratory Process Research in the Mobil Research and Development Corporation’s Central Research Division.

As a native of Beijing (Peking), China, N.Y. Chen received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of Shanghai and then joined the Taiwan Sugar Corporation in 1974. In 1949 Taiwan broke away from China to become the Nationalist Republic of China, Cutting off N.Y. from contact with his family for the next 30 years.

The father of N.Y. Chen, T.S. Chen, was regarded in China as a leading authority on fermentation science. He instilled in N.Y. at an early age a love for the scientific discipline. T.Y. Chen had studied at Louisiana State University in the 1930’s with Professor William L. Owen, a world-renowned microbiologist in the area of sugar. When N.Y. Chen wanted to study in the United States, he contacted Professor Owen, who although retired and in his eighties, succeeded in obtaining a tuition scholarship for N.Y. at LSU.

It took all the money N.Y. had to travel to the United States, and when he got off the bus in Baton Rouge in 1952 to begin his graduated studies in chemical engineering, he had $3 in his pocket. Dr. Chen gratefully acknowledges the assistance he received from LSU professor Jesse Coates (another Engineering Hall of Distinction member), who initially awarded him a research assistantship in chemical engineering and later helped him become a U.S. citizen.

N.Y. earned a M.S. in chemical engineering from LSU in 1954. He then had no difficulty gaining admittance to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduated studies and was offered a fellowship there. At MIT he was awarded a Sc.D. in chemical engineering in 1959. Dr. Chen continued for one year at MIT as an instructor in thermodynamics before joining Mobil as a research engineer in 1960.

At Mobil, his productivity and achievements earned him rapid promotions, to senior research engineer in 1961, research associate in 1964, senior research associate in 1968 and senior scientist, the highest Mobil position attainable for scientists and engineer engaged in research, in 1979. Mobil has five senior scientists in a research staff of approximately 1300. Dr. Chen enjoys research and says that his main goal in life has always been to solve problems and discover new things.

In the 1960’s, N.Y. Chen became involved in the early research and discoveries in zeolite catalysis and molecular shape-selective catalysis. Examples of his efforts in this area are the dewaxing processes now commercially used to create more diesel and home heating oils from heavy petroleum fractions and useful low pour-point lubricants from heavy stocks not previously suitable as lubricants.

In December, 1980, in recognition of his leadership Dr. Chen was given the additional responsibility of Manager of Exploratory Process Research. In this dual role, he pursues his own research while displaying another of his admirable talents: the ability to guide and encourage younger researchers and instill in them his enthusiasm for and enjoyment of research.

Dr. Chen is the holder of more the 60 patents for which he was the inventor or co-inventor. He has published more than 25 articles and presented numerous technical papers.

The achievements of Dr. Chen exemplify the best engineering research industry because they have had a significant impact on company operations. His unusual ability for scientific creativity has not only led to commercial success but has generated a large number of scientific papers which describe the underlying physical and chemical phenomena attendant in the processes he had developed. In a larger context, contemporary society has been influence by his discoveries such as those which play a key role in efforts to alleviate energy shortages through more effective use of domestic supplies of fuel.

With all his accomplishments, perhaps Dr. Chen is most remarkable as an inspiration for excelling in lively research and as an example of success which can be attained through the dedication and courage to pursue the American dream.