2010 Alumni Innovator

This award is given to an outstanding alumnus of the university who has demonstrated a consistent innovative spirit that has benefitted society.

A native of India, V.N. Malli Rao obtained his doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Idaho in 1966. He did a post-doc at the University of Chicago soon after and subsequently returned to India for two years working in a private industry. He returned to the U.S. in 1969 and worked with Bob West at the University of Wisconsin.

Rao joined DuPont in 1973 as a research chemist. His work included major technological contributions to many areas of process development and catalysis – the slowing or acceleration of a chemical reaction by a substance which itself undergoes no permanent chemical change or which can be recovered when the chemical reaction is completed. Some examples include: a safer process for the manufacture of methyl isocyanate; improved processes for the manufacture of formaldehyde; processes for the synthesis of tetrahydrofura; and alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons. He holds more than 150 issued U.S. patents in a variety of disciplines.

Well known nationally and internationally for his work on CFC alternatives, he has presented many talks on the subject and on opportunities for catalysis in the chemical industry. He retired from Dupont in 2005. At the time or retirement, at DuPont, he held the position of Dupont Fellow/Distinguished Scientist, the highest technical position available at DuPont. He received the Lavosier Medal, the highest technical recognition at DuPont in 1999 and also in the same year, was inducted into the University of Idaho Alumni Hall of Fame.

His hobbies include stamp-collecting and growing orchids.