Neal Amundson begins the interview with a discussion of his family and early years in St. Paul, Minnesota. Amundson graduated from high school at the very depth of the Depression. For the Amundson family, times were very grim, yet Amundson's parents insisted on sending their son to college. Amundson attended the University of Minnesota, where he received his B.A. in chemical engineering in 1937. Immediately after graduation, Amundson accepted a position with Exxon, then Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, as a process control engineer. There he worked on controlling phenol loss in Exxon's process for lubricating oil. After nearly two years with Standard Oil, Amundson returned to the University of Minnesota. While working toward his M.S. in chemical engineering, Amundson served as a teaching assistant in the mathematics department. After receiving his M.S. in 1941, Amundson decided to switch his educational focus and received his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1945. Amundson stayed at the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor of mathematics. In 1947, he transferred to the University's chemical engineering department and became an associate professor. In 1949, Dean Athelstan F. Spilhaus offered Amundson the position of acting chair of the chemical engineering department. That same year, Amundson became a full professor with the University. In 1951, at just age thirty-five, Amundson held the positions of department chair and professor at the University. Amundson's research work focused on heat transfer, chromatography, and adsorption. Although he was chair of chemical engineering, Amundson was first a mathematician. As a result, he structured the chemical engineering department on a more theoretical level, hiring faculty that held mathematical interests and initiating mathematical applications into a practical engineering curriculum. The strength of the faculty that Amundson assembled helped build a solid reputation for the University of Minnesota. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, Amundson introduced computers into his curriculum. In 1977, Amundson left the University of Minnesota and became the Cullen Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Houston, a position he holds today. Amundson concludes the interview with a discussion of his consulting work, the success of students, and thoughts on his career decisions.
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Amundson, Neal R. (Neal Russell), interviewed by James J. Bohning in University of Houston on October 24, 1990. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0084. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/8623hz61d.
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