Engineering Professor at UMass Amherst Receives Humboldt Research Award

February 4, 1999


AMHERST, Mass. - H. Henning Winter, Distinguished University Professor of chemical engineering and adjunct professor of polymer science and engineering at the University of Massachusetts, has been elected the recipient of a Humboldt Research Award for Senior Scientists from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany.

The unrestricted award, worth 95,000 deutsche mark (about $55,000 U.S. dollars), was given for Winter''s research achievements at the University of Massachusetts. Up to 150 scientists worldwide are offered the Humboldt Research Award each year with an invitation for a research stay at a German institute of their choice.

Winter will leave for Germany in August to conduct research at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Polymer Science in Berlin. His research at the institute will continue his work in rheology, which is the study of flow and deformation of matter.

Specifically, Winter studies how polymeric fluids transition from liquid to solid. The solidification process is called "gelation" and the instant of solidification is known as the "gel point." "Gelation can be observed in everyday life: for instance, when boiling an egg or when preparing a chocolate pudding," Winter says. "However, for polymeric materials, gelation is especially important since it determines the polymer''s final structure and, hence, its end-use properties in specific applications."

Knowing how polymers transition from a liquid to a solid makes all the difference, according to Winter. "My research group didn''t know what to expect when polymers transitioned from liquid to solid," he says. "But then we found there was a distinct rheological behavior and universal properties at the gel point."

This knowledge of gelation, according to Winter, impacts everyone working with polymers, from theoretical physicists to chemists to engineers. "We measure how, when, and for how long the gel state lasts. This knowledge allows us to intercept intermediate states of structure development and then lock in that structure," Winter says. "My ultimate goal is to introduce novel three-dimensional structures into polymers by a combination of flow and gelation."

Winter is the editor of Rheologica Acta, an international journal devoted to the field of rheology. In 1996 he earned the Society of Rheology''s highest honor, the Bingham Medal.

The Humboldt Research Award is "consistent with Winter''s ranking as a University Distinguished Professor," says Joseph I. Goldstein, dean of the College of Engineering. Winter''s Humboldt closely follows the announcement of the $625,000 Packard Fellowship awarded to James J. Watkins, assistant professor of chemical engineering. "Each of these awards demonstrates the quality of our faculty," Goldstein says.