Ive Hermans: Building bridges between disciplines, professions and continents

Between growing up in Belgium, a trilingual country with multiple ethnic communities, receiving dual training in chemistry and chemical engineering, and holding faculty positions in both Europe and the United States, Ive Hermans is used to straddling two (or more) worlds. That helps him relate to the distinct mindsets of students who major in either of his own two disciplines.

“Most chemical engineering students are very good at performing an experiment, which may include writing programming code to extract information, or simulating chemical reactions,” says Hermans, the John and Dorothy Vozza Professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But chemistry students may be better at interpreting the experimental data on the molecular level.”

Hermans enjoys bringing together these different skills and perspectives in a research team charged with doing something new and creative—which is why many of his papers include students and faculty members from two academic homes: the College of Letters and Science, which includes the Department of Chemistry, and the College of Engineering, where the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering is housed.

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