Alumnus Burtron Davis Named Distinguished West Virginian

Dr Davis

Following the 2014 Energy Summit, which was held at Stonewall Resort this past fall, Governor Tomblin (l-r) presented PSC Alumnus Burtron Davis, Ph.D. with the “Distinguished West Virginian Award.” Also present were Senator Joe Manchin and Jeff Herholdt, Director of the West Virginia Division of Energy.

Burtron H. Davis, Ph.D., Class of ’53, was presented with the ‘Distinguished West Virginian Award’ by Governor Tomblin this past fall.

According to Dr. Davis, “The award was for the continued work on the conversion of coal to transportation fuels.  During the 1970-1990 period, a group of us were working on the direct conversion of coal to liquids by the high-pressure, high-temperature process using a catalyst.  One of the major problems encountered was the corrosion caused by the high chloride content of some coals.  Our group worked with then Ashland Oil (now Marathon) and Air Products scientists and engineers to develop a control method, which we accomplished.”

Dr. Davis also served as a participant in the Consortium for Fossil Fuels Liquefaction Science (CFFLS) that included West Virginia University, the University of Kentucky, Pittsburgh University, Auburn University; and the University of Utah.  Their charge was to identify the reaction pathway, the product selectivity and the rate of liquefaction of coal from West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, and India.

For the past 25 years Dr. Davis has been working on the Fischer-Tropsch process which involves an indirect pathway for the production of transportation fuels from coal and is currently writing a book on this subject. He has also served 10 years as a member of the Advisory Board for Heterogeneous Catalysis for Sasol, which is located in South Africa and boasts the world’s largest producer of transportation fuels from coal. The board is made up of seven individuals from Europe, the United States and South Africa.

Dr. Davis was previously recognized by his alma mater (Potomac State) in 2003 with the inscription of his name on the Duke Anthony Whitmore/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Academic Achievement Wall. This honor was bestowed in recognition of his service to the College as a member of the faculty from 1970 to 1977. In addition to teaching various chemistry and engineering classes, Dr. Davis served as a coordinator for five other faculty members and received three ‘Outstanding Teacher Awards.’

“I came from a small high school and wasn’t yet 17 years of age when I started college, I would not have survived to graduate if I could not have made the transition gradually as I did at Potomac State,” stated Dr. Davis regarding his experience while a student at the College.

After earning an associate degree at Potomac State, Dr. Davis continued his education at West Virginia University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He earned his master’s degree (also in chemistry) from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pa. and his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Florida, Gainesville.

Dr. Davis has obtained numerous research grants with amounts ranging from $1,000 to nearly four million dollars. He has served as an editor for five books and is widely publicized; to date, he has more than 790 publications worldwide detailing his research activities.  He also holds 12 patents and has served on more than 50 graduate thesis committees, and has supervised Ph.D. students as well.

Dr. Davis continues to serve as the associate director of the Center for Applied Energy Research at the University of Kentucky, a position he’s held since 1982.

According to Governor Tomlin, “The Distinguished West Virginian Award is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a person from West Virginia and is awarded for outstanding achievement and meritorious service.”