Ponisseril Somasundaran


905B S.W. Mudd
Mail Code: 4711

Tel(212) 854-2926
Fax(212) 854-8362

Ponisseril Somasundaran’s research interests include the surface and colloid chemistry of minerals, materials, and microbes, molecular interactions at surfaces using advanced spectroscopy, polymer and surfactant adsorption, flocculation/dispersion, biosurface phenomena, environmental engineering (waste treatment), and enhanced recovery of oil and coal cleaning.

Research Interests

Surface/colloid chemistry of materials/nanoparticles, greener chemicals, sustainability in underground resources exploration, molecular interactions at interfaces using advanced spectroscopy, polymers/surfactants/protein absorption, flocculation/dispersion, biosurfaces, sunlight powered photosynthesis of fuels from CO2/water

Somasundaran uses his expertise to tackle problems as wide-ranging as the enrichment of scarce minerals from ultra-lean ores, the impact of cigarette smoke on lungs, noninvasive ways to diagnose plaque formation in the heart, the cleaning of oil spills, and the behavior of nanoparticles. Increasingly focused on sustainability, he is studying the full scope of a product’s lifecycle, from manufacture and shipping to use and disposal, and inventing ways to reduce waste.

Somasundaran was appointed the first LaVon Duddleson Krumb Professor at Columbia Engineering. He is the founding director of the Langmuir Center for Colloids and Interfaces, a research center at Columbia that brings together experts from mineral engineering, applied chemistry, chemical engineering, biological sciences, and chemistry to probe complex interactions of colloids and interfaces with surfactants and macromolecules. He was also the founding director of the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Center (1998). He was elected chairman of the Henry Krumb School at Columbia University and chaired the Department of Chemical Engineering, Material Science & Mineral Engineering from 1992 to 1995. Before joining Columbia University, he worked for the International Minerals and Chemical Corporation and Reynolds Industries.

The author or editor of 15 books and more than 700 scientific publications and patents, he is the honorary editor-in-chief of the international journal “Colloids and Surfaces.” He has served on many international, national, and professional committees as well as the National Research Council and University external panels and National Science Foundation Advisory Committees. He was the chairman of the Board of the Engineering Foundation (1993-95) and is currently on the board of the United Engineering Foundation. He currently serves on the Piermont Board of Appeals and previously on the Planning Board.

Somasundaran was inducted in l985 into the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinction that can be conferred to an engineer, and later to the Chinese, Indian and Russian National Academies. He is the recipient of the Antoine M. Gaudin Award (1982), the Robert H. Richards Award (l987), the Arthur F. Taggart Award for best paper (1987) of AIME, and the “Most Distinguished Achievement in Engineering” award from AINA, among others. In addition, he was awarded the “Ellis Island Medal of Honor” in 1990, the Leadership citation from the New Jersey Senate in 1991, and the Engineering Foundation’s 1992 Frank F. Aplan Award.

Honored in many countries, he was appointed as an honorary professor at the Central University of Technology of China, 1988-1993, and as an honorary research advisor at the Beijing Research Institute of Mining & Metallurgy, Beijing, China, in 1991, and has been a plenary lecturer at numerous international conferences.

Somasundaran received his MS and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and his Bachelor of Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science in 1961.


  • National Academy of Engineering (1985)
  • EPA Board of Scientific Councilors (Chairman of Chemical Safety and Sustainability and Hazardous Risk Assessment committees)
  • Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2012)
  • Balkan Academy of Science on Mineral Technologies (2009)
  • Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (2000)
  • Chinese Academy of Engineering (1999)


  • National Academy of Inventors - 2017
  • American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) Presidential Citation Award – 2017
  • National Science Foundation’s Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize for Technical Innovation - 2015
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) – 2009
  • Padma Shri, presented by the President of India – 2010
  • Elected Fellow of Indian National Academy of Engineering – 1999
  • Engineering Foundation, Frank F. Aplan Award - 1992
  • Ellis Island Medal of Honor – 1990
  • National Academy of Engineering - 1985