Emeritus Ron Danner celebrates 50 years of service in chemical engineering career

September 12, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.—July 1, 2017 marked Ron Danner’s 50 years of service in the chemical engineering department at Penn State. Danner has served in multiple roles as a teacher, mentor, and prominent researcher.

In July, 1967, Danner began his decades-long career at Penn State in the Merrell Fenske building. He was earning a mere $16,000 annually as an assistant professor. “I was the first person to move into the new wing of Fenske lab in 1970,” Danner said. "I had been in a room with three graduate students. The inspectors kept delaying our occupancy permit so I just put my things on a cart and moved in anyway.”

Officially, Danner has been retired for 16 years. When asked why he continues to come to the office most every work day he mentioned his passion for working with students in the classroom and on research. “It keeps me stimulated and interested,” said Danner. “I love it!  I never thought I would still be here so long, but I found no reason to stop.”

Danner has worked with approximately 51 master’s degree students and 25 Ph.D. students along with several undergraduate researchers. Some appointments were joint but he was advisor or co-advisor in each case. He has copies of all his students’ theses in his office which he considers to be valuable resources for his continuing research.

When Danner began at Penn State the university was on the four-terms-a-year system, and he taught five different courses during his first year including two thermodynamics courses.  Thermodynamics was a primary focus for him throughout his career. His automobile license plates, Delta G and Delta H, attests to this devotion.

His research activities have morphed into different areas over the years. He began working with Merrell Fenske, Walter Braun, and Thomas Daubert on the properties of petroleum materials for the “American Petroleum Institute Technical Data.” At the same time, he was extending his own doctoral studies on the adsorption of gases.

Later, Danner and Daubert began the decades long evaluation of the physical-thermodynamic properties of pure chemicals for the “American Institute of Chemical Engineers Data Prediction.” Computers were just being introduced. The group developed perhaps the first graphical software for evaluating the accuracy of physical property data. All of these data books and manuals are still being used and widely cited today.

These projects were followed by his collaboration with J. Larry Duda in a newly created Center for the Study of Polymer-Solvent Systems. Danner said, “One of my fondest memory was working with Larry for 17 years.” “He was always so inspirational, stimulating, insightful, and exciting to work with on projects.” The Center attracted dozens of industrial sponsors for many years. Duda passed away 10 years ago, but Danner is still extending the research on polymer systems. His written materials include over 140 national and international publications to date, and five books. During sabbatical leaves, Danner taught at the Technical Universities of Denmark and Berlin. He has presented at conferences throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and East Asia.

Danner has served in a number of roles for the formerly known Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). These roles provided him the opportunities to visit many universities, and to travel extensively.

In Danner’s opinion, the biggest change in chemical engineering at Penn State, and actually throughout the country, is a strong shift from applied research involving the basic unit operations to more theoretical, scientific studies that involve molecular simulation, biological systems, and nanomaterials. “I did very practical and applied research starting out,” Danner said. “Obtaining funding for research was much easier back then.  Faculty today experience much more competition for research funding. I’m glad I started then!”

In closing and very humbly, Danner offered some words of wisdom. “You must have perseverance and like what you are doing in life. I know the younger generation and I are worlds apart in many ways, but I thoroughly enjoy working with the students. It’s fun most days. I’m so lucky that I found a job that I enjoy, that has put me in contact with so many wonderful people, and given my wife and I the opportunity to travel the world.”

Danner has no plans of slowing down and most days you can see his smiling face on campus in the chemical engineering department.

 

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Jane Horetsky

jeh94@engr.psu.edu

Danner served 50 years in chemical engineering department.

caucasian male speaking with another caucasian man while working on first generation computers

Danner seated with first generation computers.

two caucasian males sharing a moment seated

Danner and J. Larry Duda worked 17 years
together.

“You must have perseverance and like what you are doing in life," said Danner. "I know the younger generation and I are worlds apart in many ways, but I thoroughly enjoy working with the students. It’s fun most days. I’m so lucky that I found a job that I enjoy, that has put me in contact with so many wonderful people, and given my wife and I the opportunity to travel the world.”

 
 

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The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

119 Greenberg Complex

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2574