Stratis Sotirchos, adjunct professor of chemical engineering at the University of Rochester, died June 13 at the age of 48 in Brussels, Belgium. He was struck by a car while attending a scientific conference. He was renowned for possessing a rare blend of mathematical ability and physical intuition that earned him an international reputation for his work in complex chemical systems.
Sotirchos joined the university in 1982 and became a full professor in the department of chemical engineering in 1992. His research revolved around chemical reaction engineering, which involved modeling how chemical reactions that work well in a test tube might function in larger-scale industrial applications, such as how best to convert coal into fuel. Later in his career he delved into how to create composite materials, like those used in professional tennis racquets or jet engine turbines. The process involves infusing one material into another, something for which Sotirchos’ colleagues say he had an intuitive grasp.
At the time of his death, Sotirchos was working on producing carbon nanotubes of surprisingly large size. Nanotubes are latticed networks of carbon laced together in a tube-like formation, and which have striking properties including electrical conduction and incredible strength.
“Stratis was a brilliant chemical engineer,” says Jacob Jorne, professor of chemical engineering. “He was an excellent teacher as well, and he was so enthusiastic about his work that the excitement became contagious. Neither students nor colleagues could help getting interested in whatever he was saying.”
Sotirchos was born in Lesbos, Greece, and studied chemical engineering at the National Technical University of Athens where he earned his diploma in 1979. In 1982 he earned his doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Houston, Tex., before accepting an appointment at the University of Rochester. He joined the Institute of Chemical Engineering in Patras, Greece, in 1997 as a research director, where he expanded his research activities in the areas of materials processing and porous media. He had published more than100 refereed journal papers and conference proceedings.
Sotirchos is survived by his wife Kalliope Legaki-Sotirchos, his sons Vlassis (Blaze) and Elias, his mother Stella Sotirchos, sister and brother-in-law Eleni and Efstratios Koutsoukellis, and brother-in-law Giorgos Legaki.
He and his family lived in Pittsford from 1982 to 1997, when they relocated to Patras, Greece.