Van Zee Tapped to Lead UA Chemical and Biological Engineering Department

Dr. John Van Zee

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. John Van Zee was named as head of the department of chemical and biological engineering at The University of Alabama College of Engineering, beginning his tenure in January 2013.

Van Zee joins the department after 28 years at the University of South Carolina, where he was a professor of chemical engineering and director of Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Fuel Cells, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

“John Van Zee’s experience in leading USC’s fuel cell center will be invaluable as he steps forward to lead our department of chemical and biological engineering,” said Dr. Charles L. Karr, dean of the UA College of Engineering.

“Our department currently has several very talented young faculty members, a growing number of extremely bright students and wonderful new facilities. I feel that John is uniquely qualified to combine these ingredients with the storied history of the department to form a bright and exciting future – a future that will allow for national prominence.”

Van Zee has researched fuel cells with experimental and computational methods since 1996. In 2001, he began the foundation of what would become the nation’s only fuel cell center sponsored by the National Science Foundation. As director he recruited dues-paying companies to work with multiple professors and graduate students on pre-competitive research, and the Center for Fuel Cells has been a catalyst for community, state, regional, national and international collaboration.

During 2006 and 2007, Van Zee served as founding director of the Future Fuels Research Initiative, establishing international research relationships for professors and students. During 2005, he helped establish the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance with state-wide participation from small businesses, non-profit organizations, other universities and state agencies.

He has also been heavily involved in undergraduate education and research, winning teaching awards and leading NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates programs. Also, 23 students completed their doctorates under his advisement. He served the Electrochemical Society and America Institute of Chemical Engineers, co-edited seven books, published more than 150 papers in journals and conference proceedings and produced 19 invention disclosures and three U.S. patents.

His degrees in chemical engineering include a Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1975 and a Master of Science and doctorate from Texas A&M University in 1982 and 1984, respectively.

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s fully accredited College of Engineering has more than 3,900 students and more than 110 faculty. In the last eight years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater, Hollings, Portz, Mitchell and Truman scholars.


Adam Jones, engineering public relations, 205/348-6444,