Olaf A. Hougen was one of the founders of the modern chemical engineering profession. He had a keen sense of responsibility, and believed that leading research departments have an obligation to the profession and to society to work actively to strengthen the crucial link between the generation and dissemination of new knowledge. In this spirit, the following programs are intended to honor Professor Hougen. They are made possible through the outstanding generosity of the alumni and friends of the department who have contributed over many years to the endowed Hougen Professorship Fund through the University of Wisconsin Foundation.
Since 1979, the department has regularly invited distinguished members of the chemical engineering profession to Madison for extended stays as Hougen Visiting Professors. Over the years, these individuals have collaborated with faculty and student researchers, taught courses and presented public lectures in their areas of specialization, and developed texts, monographs, and other educational materials for a wider audience.
The Hougen Scholars Program, inaugurated in 2003, is intended explicitly to allow research leaders in the profession to devote time to the development of educational materials. In spring 2003, John Yin was selected as the inaugural Olaf A. Hougen Scholar on the basis of his proposal to develop biologically oriented instructional examples and problems for integration into the chemical and biological engineering curriculum.
The 2004 Hougen Scholar, Jay Schieber (UW PhD '89) from the Illinois Institute of Technology, returned to Madison to collaborate with Juan de Pablo on a new textbook in thermodynamics.
Also inaugurated in 2003, the Hougen Symposium is an annual event intended to bring together a group of research leaders in chemical and biological engineering to exchange ideas and share with the public information on a topic of current interest to the profession and society generally.
Olaf Andreas Hougen (1893–1986), former Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was one of the outstanding original contributors to the science and practice of modern chemical engineering. He is remembered for his inspired teaching, his leadership in engineering education and research, and his volunteer work in retirement for the university and the profession.
In his research activities, Professor Hougen developed important original and fundamental principles for the mainstream of modern chemical engineering: heat transfer, gas adsorption, thermodynamics, catalysis, applied kinetics, and process design. In his teaching, Professor Hougen's warmth of personality and sincere interest in each student's future were a source of inspiration to chemical engineers around the world. He instilled in his students a sense of responsibility to their profession and to society. Professor Hougen's influence on chemical engineering education in the United States and abroad was achieved through his numerous publications, many of which established patterns for chemical engineering teaching and research.
His many honors included five awards from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Esso Award of the American Chemical Society, and the Lamme Gold Medal Award of the American Society for Engineering Education. From 1961 through 1963, he served as a scientific attaché at the American Embassy, Stockholm, Sweden, and in 1974 was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.