2015 Process Automation Hall of Fame

Our three honorees found chemical engineering their gateway drug into process automation and a source of basic process knowledge

By Paul Studebaker

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This year's inductees into the Control Process Automation Hall of Fame all hold doctorates in chemical engineering, have made significant contributions to the art and science of advanced control, and have exerted outsized influence on the profession through research and publication, by participating in groups and committees, and by educating, mentoring and managing the next several generations of process and control experts.

All three were also nominated and selected by the existing Hall of Fame members, but each has his own story about how a solid education in chemical engineering led to an award-winning career in process control.

Driven to Find a Better Way

Our first inductee is a chemical engineer with a knack for mathematics, who was drawn into the process automation profession by the intricacies of advanced control, a funded Ph.D. program, and the culture and opportunities he found at a world-class chemical company. We welcome Don Bartusiak, chief engineer, process control, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, Baytown, Texas.

Bartusiak has made significant contributions to the theory and practical applications of advanced control, evidenced by numerous technical papers and by three of his four patents (See sidebar, "Evidence of Innovation"). In 2011, he won an AIChE Computing and Systems Technology (CAST) Division Computing Practice Award for innovative industrial application of nonlinear model-predictive control to polymerization and petrochemical processes and for multi-faceted interactions with academic researchers.

See Also: 2014 Process Automation Hall of Fame—Certifiably Famous

His drive for interaction extends beyond academics to participation in professional groups, where he serves or has served as:

  • International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) Technical Committee 6.1 Co-chair, 2012 – present.
  • International Society for Automation (ISA) Standards Committee Managing Director, 2011 – present.
  • Conference for Process Control (CPC VIII) Co-chair, 2011–2012.
  • AIChE Computing and Systems Technology Division Director, 2007–2010.
  • Ethylene Producers Committee, Process Control Programming Chair, 2003-2007.
  • AIChE Lehigh Valley Section, multiple offices including Section Chair, 1979–1983.

"I have had the opportunity to work with Don Bartusiak over the past two years," says Dennis Brandl, Hall of Fame member (2013) and chief consultant, BR&L Consulting. "He is someone who is not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and look for new ideas and opportunities."

On graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 1977, Bartusiak took his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering to Bethlehem Steel's Research Department as a process development engineer, working on technology for reduction or treatment of steel plant solid wastes.

"Coming out of University of Pennsylvania, I was torn about going into grad school," Bartusiak says. "Dr. Norman Hixson got me a job in research at Bethlehem Steel, in environmental process development. I was an idealistic young person trying to do some good, but the company was not really invested in the environment. So I pursued an master of science degree at LeHigh University on a part-time basis, still in chemical engineering. Around 1984, with steel going from bad to worse, I went back to grad school full-time to get my Ph.D."

That's where Bartusiak made his connection with automation and control. "It was a hot topic at the time, with National Science Foundation (NSF) funding," he says. "I was there at the beginning of the Chemical Process Modeling and Control Research Center (PMC), founded by the NSF in 1985. That's when I became a process control guy."

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