Interfacial Transport Group

Joel Plawsky
Professor: Chemical and Biological Engineering


9/88-5/94 Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering
6/94 - 4/03 Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering
5/03 - present Professor of Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience


5/89 - 7/89 Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director, School of Chemical Engineering Practice - Albany Station: Directed the Summer Session at the Albany industrial station located at General Electric's Waterford and Selkirk polymer plants. Developed open-ended research/design problems of interest to GE for the students involved in the program. Coordinated efforts between the students and affiliated plant personnel and assisted in the solutions to the posed problems. Conducted a short course (as part of the program) on strategies for problem solving, problem solving skills and methods, and effective oral and written presentations. Acted as the industrial liaison between General Electric and MIT.


9/86 - 8/88 Senior Engineer: Developed state-of-the-art optical interconnection schemes for the tele- and data communications markets. Modeled the above devices using finite element techniques to predict their performance and lifetime. Developed novel photosensitive glasses and photomachinable glass-ceramics with infrared filtering capabilities to improve channel isolation in multi-fiber splices and connectors. Developed a new class of photosensitive, polychromatic glasses. Developed two dimensional, subminiature lens arrays for use in photocopiers and optical fiber connections along with infrared versions of these arrays for night vision and detector applications. Investigated using solubilized glass systems to produce composite organic/inorganic polymers.



Introduction to Heat Transfer
Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer
Introduction to Optical Waveguides
Heat and Mass Transfer
Transport Phenomenta I, II
Advanced Fluid Mechanics
Material and Energy Balances
Interfacial Phenomena
Chemical Engineering Laboratory I, II
Advanced Chemical Kinetics
Environmental Engineering Laboratory I, II
Advanced Transport Processes
Thermal and Fluids Engineering I
Introduction to Chemical Engineering

Course and Curriculum Development

  1. Developed a new elective course: Transport Phenomena. Course is designed to provide a uniform framework for heat, mass, momentum, and charge transport. It is a unique approach to looking at this subject. The course is a capstone course and served as a first year graduate course; reinforcing what students have learned in Pre-Engineering and introducing new topics by extrapolation and analogy.
  2. Developed new transport phenomena sequence for juniors as part of Rensselaer's new curriculum. The courses were Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer and Heat and Mass Transfer and have morphed into Transport Processes I & II. This course was an outgrowth of the Transport Phenomena Elective Course
  3. Developed a new course: Introduction to Optical Waveguides. This is a Senior/Graduate level course designed to introduce students to the theory and operation of optical waveguides. It is the only course at Rensselaer that emphasizes the theory and operation of waveguides along with the fabrication methods, materials, engineering, and transport phenomena involved in their manufacture.
  4. Co-developed a new fermentation experiment for Chemical/Environmental Engineering Lab. This is a new experiment designed to introduce students to techniques involved in immobilized enzyme technology.
  5. Architect of our new senior chemical engineering laboratory (1997). I led the development and refurbishment of the 11 experimental units in our laboratory.
  6. Published a textbook for the Transport Processes I & II courses. The textbook is Transport Phenomena Fundamentals published by Marcel-Dekker. It is in its third edition published by Taylor & Francis.
  7. Developed a comprehensive set of course notes for the Introduction to Optical Waveguides course. No suitable textbook exists.
  8. Developed numerical computation tools for Transport Phenomena and Introduction to Heat Transfer using MATLAB and MAPLE. Receipt of a faculty development workstation for this purpose.
  9. Co-author of successful proposal to outfit chemical engineering building with multimedia instructional tools (1993).
  10. Architect of Merck Undergraduate Computing Laboratory in Chemical Engineering (1995).
  11. Developed "Remote Interactive Lab in Chemical Engineering" with H. Bungay and B. Bequette (2001).
  12. Developed course "Interfacial Phenomena" (2003) to introduce the topic to seniors and graduate students. Course covers a wide variety of topics ranging from fundamental intermolecular forces to adhesion and crystal growth. It is based on Israelachvili’s book supplemented with course notes.
  13. Developed a series of Comsol learning modules for Transport Processes. Modules are maintained on an RPI website and mirrored on the company’s web site.
  14. Developed Advanced Chemical Kinetics course for graduate students. This course replaces our old Advanced Chemical Reactor Design and focuses on actual kinetics rather than reactors. Topics include polymerization kinetics, surface reaction kinetics, transition state theory, collision theory, population balances, pattern formation, and oscillating and chaotic reaction schemes.
  15. Developed a suite of nanofluid experiments with colleagues in Mechanical Engineering as part of a National Science Foundation grant designed to introduce nanotechnology into the curriculum. It was a great way to merge portions of our Chemical Engineering unit operations and Mechanical Engineering laboratory courses.
  16. Developed a new course, Advanced Chemical Kinetics, to replace our advanced chemical reactor design course. The goals of the course were to cover chemical kinetics that has been slowly being phased out of reactor design, to introduce numerical modeling techniques for the design of chemical reactors and to show how chemical kinetics can be used to describe processes outside of traditional chemical engineering such as pattern formation, CVD processes, business models, etc.

Editorship of Journals, Review of Manuscripts, Books, Research Proposals, Curating, and Jurying of Exhibitions

Editorial Board

  • Chemical Engineering Communications
  • Frontiers in Heat Pipes

Reviewing Proposals

  • NSF
  • NASA
  • DOE
  • Polish and Portuguese Science Societies
  • NYS Pollution Prevention Institute

Reviewing Manuscripts

  • Applied Optics
  • Chemistry of Materials
  • Chemical Engineering Communications
  • J. Electrochemical Society
  • J. Vacuum Society
  • J. Noncrystalline Solids
  • Physics of Fluids
  • Chemical Engineering Science
  • AIChE J.
  • J. Heat Transfer
  • Experimental Thermal and Fluid Science
  • J. Agricultural Chemistry
  • J. Thermophysics and Heat Transfer
  • Langmuir
  • J. Am. Ceramic Society
  • J. Fluid Mechanics
  • Japan J. Chemical Engineering
  • Materials Letters
  • Physical Review B
  • Thin Solid Films
  • J. Applied Physics
  • Int. J. Heat and Mass Transfer



  • Seminar Chairman Department of Chemical Engineering (1990-91).
  • Co-advisor AIChE Student Chapter (1988 - present).
  • Graduate Admissions Committee (1989 – 1991; 2000 - present).
  • Chairman Senior Laboratory Committee (1991 - present)
  • Chairman Faculty Search Committee (1996 - 1998)
  • Faculty Search Committee (1996 - 1999)
  • Chairman Search Committee (1997-1998)
  • Y2k coordinator (1999 - 2000)
  • Chairman Graduate Admissions Committee (2000)
  • Chairman Faculty Search Committee (2001-2002)
  • ABET Representative/Coordinator (2003 -)
  • Curriculum Committee (2003 - )
  • Awards Committee (2014 - )

Engineering School

  • Faculty Affairs Committee (Spring 1991).
  • Developed and found support for the Van Ness Award Lectures.
  • Graduation Marshall (1997-1998)
  • Cleanroom donation for Chem. Eng. Dept. and Center for Advanced Manufacturing Technology (1998).
  • President's Committee on Diversity (2000)
  • Secretary, Faculty Senate & Executive Cmte 2004 – 2007
  • SOE Research Award Committee Chariman (2008)
  • Dean of Enrollment Management Search Cmte. (2004 - 2005)
  • Asst. VP Research Admin and Finance Search Cmte. (2011 - 2012)
  • MANE Graduate Curriculum Cmte. (2012)
  • School of Engineering Undergraduate Advising Cmte (2012).

Professional Societies

  • AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers)
  • ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers)
  • American Chemical Society
  • Optical Society of America
  • Materials Research Society
  • American Institute of Physics
  • Sigma Xi
  • Tau Beta Pi

Society Service

  1. AIChE as session chairman since 1989. I have chaired in excess of 30 sessions in the areas of Fundamental Research in Heart and Mass Transfer, Fundamental Research in Transport Processes, and Transport in Nanoscale and Nanophase Systems.
  2. Area 1d Transport Processes programming coordinator since 1990.
  3. I was elected as 2nd Vice Chairman of the Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion division of AIChE and then the 1st Vice Chairman of the Division. I have chaired several committees in the Division including the Strategic Planning Committee and the Division Award Committee.
  4. Conference Chair for Topical Conference at AIChE Spring 2000 Meeting.
  5. Chairman-Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion Division of AIChE (2000).
  6. U.S. Scientific Committee, 200, 2006, 2010, and 2014 International Heat Transfer Conferences
  7. Max Jakob Board of Award (2000 – 2006, 2011 – 2013)
  8. Donald Q. Kern Board of Award (2000 – 2006, 2012)
  9. Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion Division Board of Award (2006)
  10. Best Paper Award Vice-Chairman (2001) National Heat Transfer Conference.
  11. Conference Technical co-Chair (2004) National Heat Transfer Conference.
  12. Founding Member AIChE Nanotechnology Forum
  13. Conference co-Chair (2005) National Heat Transfer Conference.
  14. Scientific Advisory Cmte, 7th World Congress of Chemical Engineering
  15. Scientific Advisory Cmte, International Symposium on Transport Phenomena (2007 -present)
  16. Organized two special symposia for 100th Anniversary of AIChE
  17. ASME – Conference organizer ASME/JSME Thermal Engineering Conference (2011)
  18. Symposium on Polymers in Microelectronics Conference Organizer (2012, 2014)
  19. NYS Pollution Prevention Institute Technical Advisory Committee (2008 - present)
  20. COMSOL User's Conference Organizing Committee (2013)
  21. Gordon Conference Vice Chair/Chair "Micro and Nanoscale Phase Change Heat Transfer" (2017 & 2019).

Honors and Awards

  • Full Scholarship - U. of Michigan 1975-1980
  • MIT Graduate Fellowship - 1982 and 1983
  • Sigma XI (Scientific Honorary Society)
  • Phi Lambda Upsilon (Chemistry Honorary Society)
  • Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honorary Society)
  • Lilly Teaching Fellowship 1991-1992
  • Best Paper Award from ASME/JSME (Japan) in the 1995 ASME/JSME Thermal Engineering Joint Conference
  • 1999 NASA Faculty Fellow - George C. Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Best Poster Award- AMPET Conference, Huntsville, AL (Oct. 2000)..
  • 2000 NASA Faculty Fellow - George C. Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Visiting Professor - TUDelft, Delft Netherlands (2002).
  • Visiting Professor - U. Alabama Huntsville (2003).
  • Best Paper Award – 2008 Comsol User’s Conference
  • Herbie Epstein Award – AIChE 2009
  • Fellow AIChE (2009).
  • Best Paper Award – TechCon 2011
  • Best Paper Award – TechCon 2012
  • Best paper Award –6th American Society of Microbiology Conference on Biofilms (2012)
  • Research highlighted on the cover of Nanotechnology (August 2012).
  • NASA Team Award - Micro II Experiment STS-135 (2013)
  • Nanoscale "Hot Article" (2014)
  • Cover of a special issue of Nanoscale and Microscale Thermophysical Engineering volume 18(3) (2014)
  • Fellow ASME (2014)
  • PRL paper highlighted in APS, Nature, Science, and Scientific American (2015)
  • ISS Research and Development Compelling Results Award (2015)
  • RPI Engineering School Research Award (2015)


  • J. L. Plawsky, T. A. Hatton, "Fiber Optic Probe and System for Particle Size and Velocity Measurement," U.S. Patent #4,662,749.
  • P. Persans, R. Ghoshal, N. Agarwal, S. Ponoth, J. Plawsky, "Siloxane Optical Waveguides", U.S. Patent #6,832,036
  • H. Littman, J. Paccione, J.L. Plawsky “Methods and Apparatus for Handling or Treating Particulate Material” , U.S. Patent #7,621,668
  • H. Littman, J. Paccione, J.L. Plawsky “Methods and Apparatus for Coating Particulate Material” , U.S. Patent #8,235,577
  • H. Littman, J. Paccione, J.L. Plawsky “Methods for Coating Particulate Material” , U.S. Patent #8,557,336
  • H. Littman, J. Paccione, J.L. Plawsky “Methods and Apparatus for Water Treatment” US Patent # 8,685,237
  • H. Littman, J. Paccione, and J.L. Plawsky "Coated Aerogel Beads" US Patent # 8,691,385.
  • Borca-Tasciuc, Theodorian, Sushumna Iruvanti, Fengyuan Lai, Kamyar Pashayi, Joel Plawsky, and Hafez Raeisi-Fard. "High thermal conductance thermal interface materials based on nanostructured metallic network-polymer composites." U.S. Patent # 9,045,674
  • Borca-Tasciuc, Theodorian, Sushumna Iruvanti, Fengyuan Lai, Kamyar Pashayi, Joel Plawsky, and Hafez Raeisi-Fard. "High thermal conductance thermal interface materials based on nanostructured metallic network-polymer composites." U.S. Patent # 9,512,291.