Ralph H. Colby received his B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Cornell University in 1979. After working for two years at the
General Electric Company in rheology research and process development, he attended graduate school at Northwestern University, where he received his M.S.
and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 1983 and 1985. Graduate research focused on rheology of linear polybutadiene melts and solutions, and included 15 months
as a visiting scholar in the Exxon Research and Engineering Company, Corporate Research - Science Laboratories. He then worked for ten years at the
Eastman Kodak Company in their Corporate Research Laboratories. Rheology research areas over these ten years included linear polymer melts and solutions,
miscible polymer blends, block copolymers, randomly branched polymers, polymer gels, liquid crystalline polymers, polyelectrolytes, proteins, surfactants
and colloidal suspensions.
In 1995, Dr. Colby was hired as an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University and was promoted to Professor
in 2000. He teaches very demanding undergraduate courses on Polymer Rheology and Processing and continues to use rheological and dielectric experiments to probe
the dynamics of polymers, ionomers, nanocomposites and other complex fluids. Dr. Colby has over 180 publications, published a textbook Polymer Physics in 2003
and has published seven review articles. He was a Fulbright Scholar in New Zealand in 2005 and a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Imperial College, London in 2012.
In 2011 Dr. Colby became the Editor of the Journal of Rheology and he was the 2012 recipient of The Society of Rheology’s Bingham Medal.
At Penn State, research has focused on polyelectrolyte solutions (more than 30 papers), miscible polymer blend dynamics (more than 20 papers) and ionomers
(more than 30 papers). Dr. Colby is a recognized leader in liquid state dynamics of polymers and ions, as evidenced by more than 50 invited talks in the
last five years, mostly international.
Current research focuses on DFT design (with Mike Janik and Ismaila Dabo) of polar ionomers for optimal ion transport of single-ion conductors; their subsequent
synthesis and characterization using X-ray scattering (with Karen Winey at UPenn) to assess the structure, linear viscoelasticity to assess the mechanical properties
and dielectric spectroscopy (with Jim Runt) to assess the ion transport properties. This effort was funded for seven years by DOE-BES (five faculty and ten Ph.D.
students for which Dr. Colby was the PI) and for five years by a US Army MURI (eight faculty and twenty Ph.D. students, centered at Virginia Tech). Currently this
topic is funded by NSF-DMR and Dr. Colby’s students have recently made block copolymer ionomers with 10 MPa modulus and reasonable ionic conductivity near room temperature.
New research areas include flow-induced crystallization of semi-crystalline polymer melts (with Scott Milner and Alicyn Rhoades), characterization of semi-flexible
polymers including P3HT that is important for polymer-based photovoltaics (with Enrique Gomez) and solutions of native cellulose in ionic liquids that allow fiber
spinning to achieve the true strength of cellulose without the usual chemical modifications that reduce hydrogen bonding and crystallinity. If history repeats itself,
one or more of these three new seeds will become the focus of research in the Colby group for the next ten years.