ROGER SARGENT, IChemE past president and emeritus professor and senior research fellow at Imperial College London, has been awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s (RAEng’s) Sir Frank Whittle Medal.
The medal is presented for outstanding and sustained achievement in engineering. Sargent, who was president of IChemE in 1974–5, was presented with his medal on 8 September at the RAEng annual general meeting. Sargent was a founding Fellow of RAEng, which began as the Fellowship of Engineering and celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Sargent is known as the “founding father of process systems engineering”, and his 60-year career has focussed on this application of mathematics and computing to the process industries. Sargent began his studies at the Chemical Technology Department at Imperial College as a student in 1944. He stayed on to complete a PhD, in which he used mathematical insights and analysis to design and improve an air liquefaction column and various measuring and control instruments. He joined the Société L’Air Liquide in France, where he was involved in process design and the use of new electronic digital computers.
In 1958, Sargent became a senior lecturer back at Imperial and gained an international reputation in computer control and design. In 1962 he was promoted to chair of chemical engineering and in 1966 became the Courtaulds chair of chemical engineering at the university. He developed SPEEDUP, the first commercially-available simulation software for the industry. In 1989, he founded the Centre for Process Systems Engineering (CPSE) at Imperial, which created the spin-out company Process Systems Enterprise (PSE). Over the course of his career, Sargent has supervised more than 50 PhD students and taught more than 2,000.
Sargent has an IChemE medal named after him; launched in 2014, the Sargent Medal recognises a major contribution to research in the area of computer-aided product and process engineering.
“Roger Sargent is the undisputed father of process systems engineering, a discipline he has played a pivotal role in defining and developing during the course of his long and productive career. It is no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of PSE researchers globally can trace their academic origins back to him. His impact on industrial practice and academia has been enormous,” said former IChemE president John Perkins, who nominated Sargent for the award.
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