William E. Mickols

B.S. Biological Sciences and B.S. Chemistry, 1977
M.S. Biochemistry, 1978

William E. MickolsDr. William Mickols is world-renowned in the field of water purification. He began his scientific career at NIU earning his B.S. with double majors in Biology and Chemistry in 1977 and his M.S. in Biochemistry in 1978. Emeritus Professor, Arnold Hampel, observes simply, “He was, of course, outstanding.”

Following completion of his Ph.D. at University of New Mexico, Dr. Mickols did post-doctoral work at University of California at Berkeley with Ignacio Tinoco, one of the of the world’s leading physical chemists. When he joined Dow Chemical Company in 1985, his attention turned to water desalination. Today, eighty percent of the Dow/FilmTec water desalination products are from projects led by Dr. Mickols, membranes he developed, or chemistry he invented. He has forty recently issued or submitted patents and publications in numerous scientific journals. He retired from Dow in March, 2011 and currently works for ConocoPhillips as a Principal Scientist for Air and Water.

The significance of this work is difficult to overstate. Experimental membranes that Dr. Mickols developed for the U.S. Army exceeded performance of existing materials and were immediately adopted in test systems. These desalination systems were also used in Alaska to lessen a potential disaster at a remote Coast Guard station after seawater overflowed into the station’s fresh water holding ponds. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Mickols’ membranes were used to produce drinking water from seawater, keeping a hospital operating and helping significantly with the immense effort required during one of our nation’s greatest disasters.

His influence has also had enormous effect on academic and government research in desalination membranes around the world. Professor Benny Freeman (University of Texas) praises “his extraordinary technical insight and outstanding reputation in the field,” and notes “No one else has the depth and breadth of knowledge regarding desalination materials and the impact on the field that Bill Mickols is having.”

Dr. Mickols represented Dow Chemical as chair of the Membrane Applied Science and Technology (MAST) Center’s Industrial Advisory Board and lent expertise to its research projects. Furthermore, he has shared his knowledge as an invited speaker at every international meeting involving desalination and mentored students in meaningful technical discussions.

In 2007, he was honored with the Dow Excellence in Science Award for Contributions to Membrane Technology. In 2009, the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific organization, acknowledged his contributions have “led to the welfare and progress of humanity in a significant way in the past decade” by awarding him their prestigious Heroes of Chemistry award.