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Symposium honors career, contributions of longtime Texas A&M educator and researcher Ken Hall

Published Dec 14, 2015


Some of the world’s foremost experts in thermophysical properties and thermodynamics gathered at Texas A&M University at Qatar 3 Dec. to celebrate the 49-year career of Dr. Kenneth “Ken” R. Hall, a giant in the field who will retire from Texas A&M 1 Jan.

The daylong conference featured 13 speakers from prestigious institutions around the world, including the Georgia Institute of Technology, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Dow Chemical Co., the University of California, Berkeley, and Qatar University, as well as universities in Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Germany and Finland.

“This celebration is a genuine and deeply appreciated honor for me,” Hall said. “I am proud to have had the opportunity to call each of these speakers my friend professionally and personally, and I sincerely thank those who made presentations at this event.”

In welcoming the symposium speakers and attendees, Dr. Mark H. Weichold, dean and CEO of Texas A&M at Qatar, described Hall as a pioneer, a teacher, a mentor and a friend, and spoke of Hall’s commitment, integrity, loyalty and service.

“Texas A&M has been very fortunate to have somebody of his stature here at the branch campus in Qatar,” Weichold said. “He and I were part of the group that came to Doha on that very first visit, so his roots in Texas A&M at Qatar go back to the very first days. It’s really been valuable to me to have him here with all of his experience, but especially with his knowledge of how we came to be here as a branch campus.

“The number and caliber of attendees — all of them leaders in their field — who traveled to Doha to be part of this event is testament to Dr. Ken Hall’s outstanding career and the impact he has had,” Weichold said.

Hall earned his B.S. at the University of Tulsa, his M.S. at the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma. He joined Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, USA, as associate professor in 1974.

Hall is a well-known educator and has mentored 24 master’s students and 34 Ph.D.s, three of whom presented at the daylong conference, along with one of his postdocs. He is also an effective administrator, having held a variety of leadership positions at Texas A&M, including head of chemical engineering, associate dean of engineering, associate vice chancellor for engineering of The Texas A&M University System, and deputy director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. The Board of Regents of the A&M System named him a Regents Professor in 1999.

In 2011, Hall came to Texas A&M at Qatar as associate dean for research and graduate studies, and was instrumental in establishing and growing the branch campus’ research program and master’s degree program.

A prodigious researcher, Hall has written or edited nine books, 267 peer-reviewed papers, 16 panel-reviewed papers, 12 reports, 128 presentations and 15 U.S. patents. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. He’s won several prestigious awards in his field, including the AIChE Institute Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology, the Gas Processors Suppliers Association Donald L. Katz Award and the Laurance S. Reid Award from the International School of Hydrocarbon Measurement. Qatar University presented him with its Excellence in Gas Processing Research Award in 2010.

He’s a pioneer in the field of gas-to-liquid (GTL) processing, having invented procedures to convert ethanol and natural gas into gasoline, diesel or other fuels. But those were just side projects, he says. Instead his life’s work — and his most valuable contributions — has been in the area of thermophysical properties, such as the densities of fluids like natural gas and various properties that can be calculated from density data. He and his research collaborators recently presented a new equation of state (science and engineering mathematical models) that relates pressure to the temperature and density of fluids such as natural gas. Such valuable information is used to design chemical plants and refineries, as well as pipelines and systems for transporting fluids.

And he and his research team have made great advances in highly accurate experimental measurements. At their research facility at Texas A&M’s main campus, Hall and his group are making measurements at pressures and temperatures that no other research team or apparatus in the world can make.

And although Hall is retiring from Texas A&M, he says he’s not quite ready to settle into a quiet life of leisure.

“I’m still going to try to find a job,” Hall said. “I still have more to contribute.”