In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Darrell Reneker

The AFS extends its condolences to the family and friends of Professor Emeritus Darrell Reneker, who passed away on October 17 at the age of 91. 

Professor Reneker began his career during WWII as an electrical engineer, having earned his B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University. He returned to graduate school and earned his Ph.D. in solid state physics at the University of Chicago 1959, where he was classmates with the famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan.

After receiving his Ph.D. degree, he conducted research on polymer physics with the DuPont Company. In 1969 he joined the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and became the Manager of the Center for Materials Science. One of his assignments at NIST was serving as an Executive Secretary of the Committee on Materials for the White House Science Office.

In 1989 Professor Reneker came to the University of Akron as a professor of polymer science and the Director of the Institute of Polymer Science, where he remained until his retirement in 2019. His research interests included electrospinning of polymer nanofibers, electromechanical effects and atomic scale electron microscopy of thin polymer nanofibers. His research made him an internationally recognized leader in polymer nanofiber electrospinning, a process that creates an electrified fluid jet that coils and eventually solidifies as a continuous thin fiber. This technique has been used to create innovations such as high efficiency filter media, bandages that release medicine, biomedical implants and scaffolds for cell growth.

An early and long-time supporter of the American Filtration and Separations Society, Professor Reneker often presented his research results at AFS meetings, including plenary addresses at several AFS conferences.

What he enjoyed most in academia was mentoring students, which he did right up until his sudden passing. His legacy will live on through his students and colleagues, who benefitted immensely from his remarkable knowledge and creativity. 

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