Maxwell M. Upson Professor in Engineering

Sc.B., A.B., Brown University (1975)

Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University (1981)

Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Germany (1990, 1996, 2011)

Fellow, American Physical Society

Fellow, American Institute of Chemical Engineers


Dr. Paul H. Steen is a Professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University, with field affiliations in Applied MathematicsTheoretical and Applied Mechanics and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He holds the Maxwell M. Upson Chair in Engineering.


His expertise is in the dynamical stability of fluid systems. Recent focus has been on systems where the capillary action of surface tension influences the shape of deformable liquid/gas interfaces as with constrained drops, bridges, beads and rivulets. Steen invented a switchable adhesion device wherein droplets are purposely reconfigured to grab and release using capillary action. He is also an expert in planar-flow spin casting, a process by which molten metals are rapidly solidified into thin sheets, of importance in the manufacturing of new metallic glassy materials for application in ultra-efficient solid-state energy conversion devices. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society (1996) and American Institute of Chemical Engineers (2013). Presently, he is an Associate Editor of the Nature journal Microgravity. From 2000-2012, he served as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics. He has served the APS/DfD as chairs of the Corrsin Award Selection Committee, the Fluid Dynamics Prize Selection Committee, the Acrivos Dissertation Award Committee, and has served as a member of the Nominations, Executive, Program, Publications and Frenkiel Award Committees. He has co-edited “A Gallery of Fluid Motion,” a DFD project published by Cambridge University Press. He has delivered keynote talks at Gordon Conferences, APS, APS/DfD, AIChE and ACS meetings. He has coauthored many papers, has edited books and holds a number of patents.


Prior to coming to Cornell, Steen received his PhD from The Johns Hopkins University in 1981 and held a post-doctoral position in Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, after having completed undergraduate degrees in Engineering and English Literature at Brown University. At Cornell, he has served as Director of Graduate Studies for Chemical Engineering. He was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, enabling visits to research institutions in Karlsruhe, Goettingen and Dortmund, Germany. Additionally, he has been a Senior Guest Scientist at the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, a Visiting Scientist with the Physics of Fluids group at the University of Twente, Netherlands and has visited several times the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.


Research Interests

Stability of liquid/gas interfaces
Flows driven by capillary action
Fluid dynamics of planar flow spin casting
Heat flow in planar flow casting
Electro-osmotically controlled shape-change
Switchable electronics and capillary adhesion devices


Feature on NSF’s Awesome Discoveries

Droplet Motion Periodic Table

Switchable Adhesion Publicity

Spiderman Adhesion Invention Licensing

Math Genealogy

Cornell Research Summary


Teaching Interests

CBE 7510: Advanced Math Methods in Chemical Engineering
CBE 7530: Stability, Bifurcation and Continuation
CBE 6610: Air Pollution Control
CBE 4320: Unit Operations



Last edited: 4/25/20