In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Ken Nobe

Jul 25, 2019

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Ken Nobe, a UCLA professor emeritus of engineering, world-renowned for his early studies of catalytic air pollution control of exhaust emissions and research in electrochemical processes, died on July 11, 2019.  He was 93.

Nobe, born in Berkeley, Calif., earned his B.S. in chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1951. Soon after, he joined the Air Reduction Research Laboratory in Murray Hill, N.J., where he was responsible for developing organic polymers.

Nobe joined UCLA in 1954 to conduct research with professor Samuel Yuster, who was developing water desalination techniques, and professor William Seyer, who was working to reduce air pollution by controlling car exhaust emissions. Nobe attributed his decision to stay and pursue his career at UCLA to the research culture created by L.M.K. Boelter, the school’s founding dean.

Nobe earned his Ph.D. in engineering in 1956, and joined the UCLA faculty as an assistant professor of engineering the following year. He rose through the ranks, becoming an associate professor in 1962 and a full professor in 1968. Nobe served as the chair of the Chemical, Nuclear and Thermal Engineering Department from 1978 to 1983, and was the founding chair of the Chemical Engineering Department, serving from 1983 to 1984.

His distinguished research career focused on studying electrochemical processes, including the kinetics and mechanisms of electrodissolution and electrodeposition, corrosion, electrochemical energy systems and electrodeposited nano-sized, high-performance magnetic materials.

His research group was also noted for their early work demonstrating the feasibility of using catalytic converters to remove nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons from car exhaust and power plants.

During his career, he received a UCLA Distinguished Teacher Award in 1962 and the Linford Award from the Electrochemical Society in 1992. His passionate dedication to teaching and research have influenced many generations of chemical engineering students.

In 2000, Nobe and his wife, Mary, endowed the William F. Seyer Chair in Materials Electrochemistry, in honor of his doctoral advisor.

In recognition of Nobe’s outstanding leadership and contributions, the UCLA Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department established a Founder’s Lectureship in his name in 2008 to invite distinguished researchers in this field to campus. The department will host a special event at this year’s Founder’s Lecture to honor Nobe and his contributions.

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