Chemical Engineering professor and department chair awarded for originality in research

Published: March 01, 2016
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Mario Eden finds joy in working alongside his chemical engineering graduate students to develop methods for solving interesting problems that no one else has been able to solve before.

"I've never really gotten into the competition of saying we can solve a given problem a few seconds faster than someone else," Eden said. "The problems that we solve really have to matter. I would rather work on problems that others have not been able to solve."

Eden is the Department Chair and Joe T. and Billie Carole McMillan Professor of Chemical Engineering and a recipient of the 2015 Creative Research and Scholarship Award.

Among peers and students alike, Eden is known for the originality of his research.

"The beauty of research is that, as long as the premise for studying something isn't fundamentally wrong, there is knowledge and value to be gained from such pursuits," Eden said. 

Eden's research in process systems engineering focuses on methodology development in two main areas – process design and optimization, as well as product and molecular design. 

In process design and optimization, Eden and his team work on developing systematic methods for the design of new efficient processes. Their product and molecular design tools allow them to design molecules and chemicals with desired functionalities and fewer negative impacts than existing solutions. 

Although Eden is now known for his creativity, passion and devotion to his work, the early years of his academic career almost prevented him from pursuing a Ph.D.

"I had written off the possibility of pursuing a Ph.D. because I thought my early grades were just not good enough," Eden said. "Thankfully, my Masters advisor saw something more than just those early grades. He recognized the effort and the quality of work I had done my last couple of years and offered me the opportunity to pursue my doctorate."

Now as a professor himself, Eden is sympathetic to students who may not look as strong on paper but who have passion and are hard workers.

"What I look for in a graduate student is the passion to do the kind of research that I do," Eden said. "I can teach them the technical stuff that they will need, but I can't teach them to own the work and keep pushing it to the next level."

Eden first came to Auburn in 2001 as part of his Ph.D. studies, working with Professor Mahmoud El-Halwagi. After spending nine months studying with El-Halwagi, Eden returned to Denmark and assumed his time at Auburn University was over.

A few months later, however, El-Halwagi moved to another university, and Eden was asked to come back as a visiting lecturer for the Senior Design Sequence in Chemical Engineering in the fall of 2002 and spring of 2003. While he was teaching, he applied for and was offered the tenure-track position in the chemical engineering department.

Eden returned to Denmark in the spring of 2003 to complete his dissertation. In January of 2004, he started as an assistant professor at Auburn University. In 2008 Eden was promoted to associate professor and in 2012 was promoted to professor and Department Chair of Chemical Engineering. During his time at Auburn, Eden has been recognized with several prestigious awards for both research and teaching.

Eden received his Master of Science as well as his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Technical University of Denmark.