Skip to main content
Old Main bell tower.

Harry Allcock named Atherton Professor

17 October 2023
Harry Allcock

Harry Allcock, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, has been honored by Penn State with the title of Atherton Professor. The University created the Atherton Professorship to recognize the continuing high level of scholarly or creative activity Evan Pugh University Professors may pursue after their retirement.

“Harry has made an important impact in his field, and I am delighted that he will continue his scholarship at Penn State as an Atherton Professor,” said Tracy Langkilde, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science "His willingness to share his expertise with the college and broader scientific community will continue to have an impact over the coming years."

The Evan Pugh University Professorship is the highest distinction bestowed upon faculty by Penn State. Since the establishment of the designation in 1960, only 79 faculty members have been named as Evan Pugh Professors. The Atherton Professorship recognizes emeritus Evan Pugh Professors for their exceptional record of research and creative accomplishment, teaching and learning, and service over the course of their careers, and allows for the continuation of these activities to the benefit of the University community.

“Professor Allcock has made enormous contributions over his years at Penn State in terms of research contributions and training of outstanding students,” said Phil Bevilacqua, head of the Department of Chemistry and distinguished professor of chemistry and of biochemistry and molecular biology. “He has also been an outstanding educator, including authoring a textbook in polymer chemistry. Harry has brought great recognition to the department, and we are extremely grateful for this. We wish Harry all the best as he continues in his research endeavors."

Allcock also holds courtesy appointments with the departments of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering. His research focuses on the design and synthesis of polymers—materials composed of large repeating molecules—with unique combinations of properties by combining organic and inorganic components. He aims to understand how changes in polymer structure impact the material’s resulting properties, which can be tailored for specific applications. Allcock previously discovered a method of synthesizing polymers using a technique called macromolecular substitution. This led to the creation of a major class of polymers known as polyphosphazenes, which have been adapted for use in fuel cells, lithium batteries, and scaffolds for biomedical tissue regeneration. His ongoing work explores applications in biomaterials and medical devices, including blood-compatible polymers called elastomers for blood vessels, heart pumps, and catheters. This cardiovascular research is part of an ongoing program with colleagues at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Allcock has authored or coauthored more than 660 peer-reviewed papers, and he is the author of three research monographs on inorganic-organic rings and polymers, including the 725-page “Chemistry and Applications of Polyphosphazenes,” published in 2003. He is also the author of a 2008 textbook, titled “Introduction to Materials Chemistry.” By 2021, 60 patents based on his group’s work had been awarded to Penn State and collaborating universities. Allcock has visited and lectured about his research at many universities and at national and industrial laboratories throughout the United States, Canada, Brazil, Western Europe, Japan, and New Zealand.

As a professor at Penn State, he has directed the training of more than 130 graduate students and postdoctoral scientists, as well as numerous undergraduates. His outstanding achievements in promoting undergraduate or graduate polymer education were recognized in 2010 with the Paul J. Flory Polymer Education Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS). Allcock has also received numerous awards for his research, including the International Award of the Polymer Society of Japan in 2017, the ACS National Award in Applied Polymer Science in 2007, the ACS Herman Mark Award in Polymer Chemistry in 1994, the ACS National Award in Materials Chemistry in 1992, the American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Award 1989, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985, and the ACS National Award in Polymer Chemistry in 1984. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2014.

Allcock received his bachelor's and doctoral degrees in chemistry from the University of London in the United Kingdom. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue University and at the National Research Council of Canada and was a research chemist at the American Cyanamid Laboratories in Stamford, Connecticut from 1961 to 1966. In 1966, he joined the faculty at Penn State as associate professor. He was promoted to professor in 1970 and was named Evan Pugh University Professor of Chemistry in 1985. He also has been a visiting scientist at Stanford University, the Imperial College of Science and Technology in the United Kingdom, and IBM Almaden Laboratories in California.

About the Atherton Professorship 

The Atherton Professorship, under the sponsorship of the Office of the Provost and the administration of the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, invites applications for membership from Penn State Evan Pugh Professors who are retiring from the University and who wish to continue a high level of engagement as an emeritus faculty member.

Atherton Professors typically engage in the pursuit of scholarly or creative activities, leadership, or outreach in one or more of the following ways:

  • Obtaining external funding to support ongoing research
  • Current and future publications of research papers and/or books
  • Leadership in learned societies and/or scholarly journals
  • Solicited lectures, performances, or exhibits

Selection as an Atherton Professor is for an initial term of three years with the possibility of renewal. Atherton Professors may negotiate to receive support from their units such as funding, office space, or administrative support but do not retain any funding or privileges associated with their Evan Pugh Professorship. Atherton Professors may petition the Graduate School to retain their graduate faculty status during the term of their appointment as an Atherton Professor.