Featured Content: Class of Influential Researchers Award 2022!

I wanted to thank all my past and present students, colleagues, and collaborators for their invaluable contribution to our research. With your contribution, we were able to achieve high-quality research and international recognition! 🙏

Thanks for the amazing facilities, funding and general support from the AMPM Center, Core Labs and KAUST in general!

award announcement 2022

KAUST Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Gyorgy Szekely has recently received two notable recognitions for his significant contributions to sustainable materials science. He received the Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research’s (I&ECR) Class of Influential Researchers Award 2022 from the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the International Association of Advanced Materials’ (IAAM) Sustainability Award 2022.

The I&ECR award recognizes the contributions of early-career investigators within the first ten years of their independent careers who are carrying out exceptional and acknowledged research within chemical engineering and applied chemistry. Professor Szekely received the IAAM award for his contribution to more sustainable polymer-based membrane materials and separation processes.”

Election to the European Membrane Society

In addition to receiving the aforementioned awards, Szekely has been elected as a council member of the European Membrane Society (EMS) for his work in membrane science. Established in 1982, the EMS is an international scientific association aiming to promote cooperation between European scientists and engineers developing membranes and membrane processes.

Szekely will serve as a council member for the next three years. In his new role, he will work to enhance the visibility and potential of the EMS’ membrane-related research worldwide.

“I have a strong desire to support the mission of the EMS. I will use the knowledge and the experience I have gained throughout my career within the council to help shape its agenda,” he said of his election.

“The contribution of European scientists to the field of membranes is outstanding, which makes me proud and motivated to engage further with the Society. In my new role, I want to give something back to the community, which has given me so much throughout my career.”

Forging a path of scientific innovation

Szekely obtained his MEng (’09) in Chemical Engineering from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary, and his Ph.D. (’12) in Chemistry from the Technical University Dortmund, Germany.

Throughout his career, he has been dedicated to solving challenges related to the sustainable fabrication of membrane materials for harsh environments; and increasing the application of these membranes through process intensification. The multidisciplinary nature of his work encompasses supramolecular chemistry, molecular recognition, molecular imprinting, process development, sustainable separations, waste utilization, nanofiltration and pharmaceutical purification.

Based in the KAUST Advanced Membranes & Porous Materials Center, his research team — The Szekely Group — investigates the potential of advanced membranes and imprinted materials for efficient purification and sustainable processing of fine chemicals and water.

“My group is developing energy-efficient membrane materials using biomass such as agricultural waste, shrimp farming waste and upcycling used face masks. In addition, we are working on a more efficient separation process, using green metrics analysis to quantify the improvements we are making,” he explained.

Szekely is a longtime advocate for STEM outreach activities, and his sustainable research approach lent itself to an innovative ongoing project with The KAUST School. Since 2020, the collaborative project has focused on extracting essential oils from plants.

Continually innovative, the British–Hungarian researcher is also looking toward the future. Beginning this year, he will start two industry-funded projects with Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), a Saudi Government Corporation responsible for desalinating sea water in the Kingdom.

The first SWCC project will focus on developing more sustainable membranes using local biomass, while the other aims to intensify water treatment to reduce energy consumption.

“Several of my upcoming projects align with the Saudi Green Initiative, Vision 2030 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Additionally, my group invented a process to upcycle shrimp farming waste into separation materials. This project was in collaboration with the National Aquaculture Group, which produces 50,000 tons of shrimp per annum in Saudi Arabia,” Szekely emphasized.

“All these research drives and career recognitions allow me to grow professionally, expand and diversify my career path and, most importantly, challenge myself,” he concluded.