Dr. Orlin Velev, INVISTA Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University, is the thirty-third recipient of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Extension. Velev delivered an award lecture Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Larry K. Monteith Engineering Research Center on NC State’s Centennial Campus. His lecture was entitled, “Engineering of Dynamically Reconfigurable Soft Matter: Smart Particle Gels, Biomimetic Actuators and Self-Propelling Microbots.”
The award was established in 1981 within the College of Engineering to honor a member of the engineering faculty who has demonstrated superiority in several areas of activity that relate to the University’s three-fold mission of teaching, research and extension. The annual award is supported by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company through the NC State Engineering Foundation to recognize scientific and educational achievements in fields of engineering. The recipient is given a $25,000 prize distributed over five years.
Velev is an established research leader in colloid science and engineering. He leads an active and multidisciplinary research group at NC State that focuses on colloids, microfluidics and nanoscience with an emphasis on controlled assembly of colloidal particles into advanced materials and microscopic functional structures.
His work and publications have led to the establishment of innovative research in the areas of nanostructures with electrical and photonic functionality, biosensors, microfluidics and nanomanufacturing. He has been the first to synthesize “inverse opals,” one of the most widely studied types of photonic materials today. He has also pioneered techniques for making novel nanoparticle materials, Janus particles, rod-like particles and responsive foams. Technologies based on his research have formed the basis of two Research Triangle-area startup companies, Xanofi and Benanova.
Velev has presented more than 220 invited presentations at major conferences and at universities and companies, contributed to more than 190 publications that have been cited more than 18,500 times, and developed and taught new graduate- and undergraduate-level courses, Colloid Science and Nanoscale Engineering and Special Topics in Nanoscience, both at NC State and TU-Berlin.
He joined the NC State faculty in 2001 as a research assistant professor in CBE after working as a research assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2006 and to professor in 2008. He was named the INVISTA Professor in 2009.
Since arriving at NC State, Velev has been actively involved in educating students. The Velev research group consists of undergraduate and graduate students working together with a focus on fundamental and exploratory projects in colloids, microfluidics and nanoscience. The major thrust is the controlled on-chip assembly of colloidal particles into advanced materials and microscopic functional structures. The research they are conducting could lay the foundation for future technologies for fabrication of chemical and biological sensors, photonic devices, microscale materials synthesis, bioelectronic interfacing and rapid fabrication of nanostructured coatings and materials.
His many honors and awards include the Alcoa Foundation Distinguished Engineering Research Award, the Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Ralph E. Powe Award and the Andreas Acrivos Award for Professional Progress in Chemical Engineering from AIChE. He was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2011 and a Fellow of the Materials Research Society in 2017.
Velev is one of seven NC State faculty members to receive a Chancellor’s Innovation Fund Award in 2017. With this award comes funding to help create more innovative discoveries from lab bench to the marketplace. Velev developed a new process for taking almost any polymer and converting it into extremely sticky particles while dramatically increasing its surface area. The patent-pending process does this without changing the chemical properties of the polymer. When dried, these particles can also be tweaked to make coatings and nonwovens that are very adhesive and able to either repel or attract water. He calls these modified polymers “gecko leg” particles, as their surfaces mimic the sticky legs of the lizard that are able to cling to almost any surface.
He received his B.S. and M.Sc. in chemical physics and theoretical chemistry in 1989 and his Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1996 from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria.
Velev is a leader in colloids, microfluidics and nanoscience while also advocating the incorporation of the latest achievements in the areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology into the engineering curriculum.
His commitment to excellence makes him a deserving recipient of the R.J. Reynolds Award.