Pitt Distinguished Engineering Professor Anna Balazs Named 2013 Mines Medalist

Issue Date: 
February 4, 2013

Anna Balazs, a University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, has been named the 2013Anna Balazs Mines Medalist by the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Known for being a pioneer in predicting the behavior of complex polymeric materials through theoretical modeling, Balazs is only the fifth researcher to win this

As a Mines Medalist awardee, Balazs will receive a unique medallion that includes 10-karat yellow gold and 12-karat Black Hills gold and is adorned with copper and silver using a historic Japanese welding technique called “mokume gane.” This method, which means “burl metal,” creates layered patterns on mixed-metal laminates. 

Recognized as a “trendsetting researcher,” Balazs specializes in theoretical and computational modeling of polymer blends and composites. She has developed powerful, comprehensive computer models to predict the behavior of nanocomposites—solid materials with components that have nanoscale dimensions. These models have provided critically needed guidelines for creating high-performance materials formed from polymers and nanoparticles. 

Balazs leads a team that predicted the behavior of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) gels, which possess far-reaching applications “such as artificial skin that could be sensory—a holy grail in robotics,” she said. Her group has also developed the first computational model to describe large-scale deformations and shape changes in chemically responsive polymer gels. She also has made significant contributions to the area of self-healing materials and has collaborated with experimentalists at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Pitt.

“The research being conducted by Anna Balazs has the power to transform lives, and we are excited to name such a distinguished researcher as our 2013 Mines Medalist,” said Duane Hrncir, acting president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. 

Balazs was nominated for the award by Steven R. Little, chair of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, who described her work as both “theoretically elegant and applicable to real materials of industrial relevance.”

Balazs’ research has been published in Science, Nature, and other academic peer-reviewed journals and has been featured in popular media outlets such as The Economist and Science News

She will receive her medallion at the Oct. 3, 2013, Mines Medal Dinner and Award Ceremony at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, S.D. The Mines Medal Award was founded by the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in 2009 to recognize scientists and engineers who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and innovation. The Mines Medal medallion was crafted by Philip Baldwin of Shining Wave Metals in Snohomish, Wash. Baldwin was part of the Mokume Research Group at Southern Illinois University that decoded the historic mokume gane metalworking technique in the late 1970s and adapted it to contemporary materials and aesthetics. 

Visit http://mines-medal.sdsmt.edu for more information and a list of previous winners.