Professor Somasundaran received his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and his Bachelor of Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science in 1961. Before joining Columbia University, he worked for the International Minerals and Chemical Corporation and Reynolds Industries. He was appointed the first La von Duddleson Krumb Professor in the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the first Director of the Langmuir Center for Colloids & Interfaces and founding director of the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Center for Advanced Studies in Novel Surfactants. He was also elected Chairman of the Henry Krumb School at Columbia University, as Chair of Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Material Science & Mineral Engineering in 1992 and 1995.
He was inducted in l985 into the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinction that can be conferred to an engineer and later to the Chinese, Indian and Russian National Academies. He is the recipient of the Antoine M. Gaudin Award (1982), the Robert H. Richards Award (l987), the Arthur F. Taggart Award for best paper (1987) of AIME, “Most Distinguished Achievement in Engineering” award from AINA among others. In addition, he was awarded the “Ellis Island Medal of Honor” in 1990, along with such recipients as President George Bush, four former Presidents, U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Danny Thomas, the Leadership citation from the New Jersey Senate in 1991 and the Engineering Foundation’s 1992 Frank F. Aplan Award.
He has been honored in many countries. He was appointed as an Honorary Professor at the Central University of Technology of China, 1988-1993, and an Honorary Research Advisor at the Beijing Research Institute of Mining & Metallurgy, Beijing, China, in 1991 and a Plenary Lecturer at many International conferences.
He is the author/editor of fifteen books and of over 700 scientific publications and patents. He is the honorary editor-in-chief of the international journal “Colloids and Surfaces”. He has served on many international, national and professional committees and National Research Council and University external panels and National Science Foundation Advisory Committees. He was the Chairman of the Board of the Engineering Foundation (1993-95) and currently on the board of the new United Engineering Foundation.
He currently serves on the Piermont Board of Appeals and previously in the Planning board. His research interests are surface and colloid chemistry of minerals, materials and microbes, molecular interactions at surfaces using advanced spectroscopy, polymer and surfactant adsorption, flocculation/dispersion, biosurface phenomena, environmental engineering (waste treatment), enhanced recovery of oil and coal cleaning.