Syracuse University Professor James A. Schwarz remembered for his passion for research and learning
Syracuse University Professor James A. Schwarz remembered for his passion for research and learningSeptember 30, 2004Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
On Sept. 26, longtime neighbors and friends of Syracuse University Professor James A. Schwarz set aloft a bouquet of balloons tied around a glass of champagne to toast his extraordinary life. Schwarz, a resident of Fayetteville and a professor of chemical engineering and materials science in SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, died earlier in the day at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse following a long illness. He was 60.
A native of New Jersey, Schwarz received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. He began his college career studying mathematics, but found his niche in chemical physics and applied chemistry. As a doctoral student at Stanford University, he participated in vitamin C research with Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling and then spent a year at Cambridge University working with renowned physicist and chemist Jack Linnett.
Schwarz spent three years in academia as a visiting scholar, postdoctoral fellow and instructor, and seven years working in the oil industry for Chevron Research and Exxon Research and Engineering. He returned to academia in 1979 when he joined ECS’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science as an associate professor. He was promoted to full professor in 1985.
Lawrence Tavlarides, professor of chemical engineering, became the chair of the department in 1981 and was Schwarz’s colleague and friend ever since. He says that Schwarz was a passionate scholar and researcher who was constantly promoting research collaboration among faculty and students. “His enthusiasmwas contagious,” Tavlarides says. “He was always engaging colleagues and students, and had a way of helping faculty go in new directions.” He mentored countless numbers of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom went on to distinguish themselves in industry, academics and the physics and chemistry communities.
“Jim was a dear friend and colleague to so many at Syracuse University and throughout the academic and research worlds that he traveled. He was a consummate gentleman and an inquisitive and passionate scholar whose pursuit of knowledge became a way of life for him,” says Eric F. Spina, the Douglas D. Danforth Dean of ECS.
Schwarz was known on national and international levels for his pioneering research on the adsorptive storage of hydrogen on carbon and catalyst preparation, and held 14 patents for his discoveries. Over the years, Schwarz received nearly $5 million in research grants and contracts, including a grant from Brookhaven Labs to research the storage of hydrogen for potential fuel cell applications. In 1988, he received a U.S. patent for Modification/Metal Assisted Carbon Cold Storage of Hydrogen (MACS). In 1990, he established the Laboratory for Advanced Storage Systems for Hydrogen within the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science to further hydrogen energy research. His lifelong research resulted in more than 225 publications.
Schwarz was awarded a Fulbright Award to study in Romania in 1997. He also received the Anaren Microwave Award for Research and the prestigious Langmuir Lectureship from the American Chemical Society. In 2002, SU awarded Schwarz the Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement, one of the most prestigious awards bestowed by the University.
In the past few years, Schwarz battled serious health problems. Even with the challenges he faced, Schwarz came back and embraced his situation as a chance to expand his learning. After going through a hip replacement, he used that experience to branch out into bioengineering research.
Most recently, he worked with scientists from around the world as the editor of the five-volume “Dekker Encyclopedia of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology,” a new online encyclopedia. He served as director of a nanoscience laboratory at SU, continued his hydrogen research and was working on two other publications and a patent. He was also serving as the chair of the Colloid and Surface Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
“He never stopped learning and working,” says Tavlarides. “He was going to work as long as he could, and he did. He continued to be inventive and forward-thinking, and the impact of that is still yet to be known.”
“Jim taught us many lessons in 25 years at SU, and the courage and indomitable spirit that he exhibited in his final years will long be remembered,” Spina says.
Schwarz is survived by his sister, Lillian Jean Panachyda of Lansdale, Pa., and by numerous colleagues and friends. A memorial service will be held Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. at the Eastern Hills Bible Church, 4600 Enders Rd. in Manlius, N.Y. A University memorial service in Hendricks Chapel will be held at a later date.