Remembrance of Professor Chang Y. Ryu 

By Wilfredo (“Freddy”) Colón 

On Sunday, July 18, 2021, Professor Chang Y. Ryu, Ph.D., passed away suddenly in Seoul, Korea. He had been a member of the Rensselaer faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology since 2001 and was the Director of the New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis since 2014. Professor Ryu received Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Chemical Technology from Seoul National University, and a doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. He then did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Professor Ryu was a physical polymer scientist well known for his work on polymer characterization and the relationship between a polymer’s structure and its materials properties. He was a leader in polymer separation using adsorption behavior of molecular interactions and their nanoscale self-assembly in solution and thin films. Most recently, his group was studying the development of 3D printing materials based on naturally available vegetable oil-based chemicals. Professor Ryu had over 70 research publications and was co-editor of the book Sustainable Polymers from Biomass. He obtained many government and industrial research grants, including a National Science Foundation CAREER award. 

Professor Ryu cared a lot about his teaching because he cared more about his students. In recent years, he was teaching courses for freshmen, junior, and senior students in the same academic year. Over the years he taught chemistry to approximately 2,000 students in the classroom and was the research or academic adviser of more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students. He also cared about outreach and ran for many years a summer program for high school students. Whether in the classroom, his lab, or his office, Professor Ryu had a significant impact on the education and career path of many students. 

On a personal level, Professor Ryu and I came to Rensselaer three years apart and rose through the academic ranks together. We had our children at about the same time. In recent years, we both took up playing golf. Although we did not play together often, the last time we played was on June 11. We had a great time catching up with life outside of work. After the last hole, I said “Chang, let’s take a selfie for future memories.” That was the last time I saw or spoke to him. On June 28, he would send me the last e-mail: graduation pictures he had taken of my son a couple of days before. I value that our last meeting and email were not about work, but about friendship and family. 

Professor Ryu is missed by the many whose lives he touched. I think of him often, sometimes reminded by the only plant in my office, a cactus gift from him. For however many days or years I have left at Rensselaer, I will feel the void left by the absence of my friend and colleague of 21 years, and will cherish my memories of him, his easy smile and laughter, and what he meant to me and our department. 

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