Torkelson Research Group


John Torkelson

Group Members





John M. Torkelson

John Torkelson is a Walter P. Murphy Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University.  John received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1978 and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1983.  He has been a faculty member at Northwestern since 1983, where he also served as Assistant Department Chair in Chemical Engineering from 1992 to 1995 and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science from 1997 to 2002.  During 2003 - 2006, John was the Director of the Materials Research Center at Northwestern University, which receives its main funding from the NSF-Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) Program. 

His current and recent research interests are in the following areas:
    Glass-forming polymer systems and their nanoscale, heterogeneous relaxation processes
    Green polymer processing and manufacture, especially solid-state shear pulverization and controlled radical polymerization
    Ultrathin films, coatings, and membranes
    Polymer nanocomposites, especially related to issues of nanofiller (e.g., clay, carbon nanotube, ceramic nanoparticle) dispersion by solid-state shear pulverization and impact of dispersion on properties
    Gradient copolymers, including synthesis, property-structure relationships, and use as compatibilizers of immiscible blends
    Phase behavior of blends and copolymer-solvent systems
    Polymerization reaction engineering, especially free radical polymerization (conventional and controlled) and sensors
    Diffusion and diffusion-limited processes in polymers
    Associative polymers forming physical gels
    Optical characterization & sensors: fluorescence, nonlinear optics, photochromism, single-molecule microscopy

John's teaching interests include the following: polymer chemistry, physics and engineering; polymerization reaction engineering; and polymer processing.  He has also taught 12- to 15-week short courses related to polymers and to basic materials science at several industrial research centers in the metropolitan Chicago area.


Honors and Awards (since receipt of Ph.D.)
2012             Elected "Fellow" of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
2012             Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence
                           Northwestern University
2010             Outstanding Teaching Award
                           American Society for Engineering Education, Illinois/Indiana Section
2009             Best Paper Award
                           Engineering Properties and Structure Division, SPE
2009             Northwestern Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award
2008             McCormick School of Engineering Teacher of the Year Award
2007             Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll
2004             Charles M.A. Stine Award
                           Materials Engineering and Science Division, AIChE
2004             Best Paper Award
                           Polymer Analysis Division, Society of Plastics Engineers
2004             Polymer Physics Prize
                           Journal of Polymer Science Part B Polymer Physics
2002             Caterpillar Distinguished Lecturer
                           Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
                           University of Iowa
1999             Named "Fellow" of the American Physical Society
1995-98       Bette and Neison Harris Professor of Teaching Excellence
1995-96       Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll
1994             McCormick School of Engineering Advisor of the Year Award
1987-92       NSF-Presidential Young Investigator Award
1986             Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award
1985-86       Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow
1985             TECH (now McCormick School of Engineering) Teacher of the Year Award
1984             Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Teaching Award

Professor Torkelson as a Faculty Coach during Senior Day 2009, Northwestern vs. Wisconsin

National Technical/Scientific Society Offices Held
2005-08       Member-at-Large, Executive Committee,
                           Division of Polymer Physics, American Physical Society
1999-2002   Chair, Vice-Chair, and Second Vice-Chair,
                           Materials Engineering and Science Division
                           American Institute of Chemical Engineers

Locations of Recent/Upcoming Invited or Plenary Talks (01/2005 - present)
      Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Pennsylvania
      Spring 2005 National American Chemical Society Meeting (San Diego, CA)
      March 2005 National American Physical Society Meeting (Los Angeles, CA)
      Frontiers of Soft Condensed Matter Workshop, Exxon-Mobil Research Center (Annandale, NJ)
      5th International Discussion Meeting on Relaxation in Complex Systems (Lille, France)
      August 2005 National American Chemical Society Meeting (Washington, DC)
      Dept. of Polymer Science, University of Akron
      Milliken Corp. (Spartenburg, SC)
      Advances in Polyolefins 2005 (Rohnert Park, CA)
      Dept of Molecular Science and Technology, Ajou University (Suwon, Korea)
      Pacific Polymer Federation IX Meeting (Maui, Hawaii)
      2005 Pacifichem Meeting (Honolulu, Hawaii)
      2006 Dutch Polymer Days (Lunteren,The Netherlands)
      3rd International Meeting on Dynamics in Confinement (Grenoble, France)
      Program in Polymer Science and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      Dept. of Polymer Science and Engineering, University of Massachusetts
      2006 Society of Plastics Engineers Annual Technical Meeting
      European Research Training Network Workshop on Properties of Polymers in Thin Films (Mulhouse, France)
      Workshop on Non-equilibrium Phenomena in Supercooled Fluids, Glasses and Amorphous Materials (Pisa, Italy)
      Dept. of Chemical Engineering, University of Texas-Austin
      29th AustralAsian Polymer Symposium (Hobart, Australia)