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Martin Feinberg

  • Faculty Emeritus, Chemical & Biomolecular Eng
  • 520 CBEC
    151 W. Woodruff Ave.
    Columbus, OH 43210
  • 614-688-4883



  • B.Ch.E., Cooper Union, 1962
  • M.S., Purdue University, 1963
  • Ph.D., Princeton University, 1968


Key Honors and Distinctions

  • Ohio State University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching (highest teaching honor at Ohio State; sole recipient), 2014
  • Wilhelm Lectures, Princeton University, 2011
  • Amundson Lectures, University of Houston, 2006
  • John Von Neumann Lecture in Theoretical Biology, Institute for Advanced Study, 1997
  • Wilhelm Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 1996
  • MacQuigg Award for Undergraduate Teaching, Ohio State University, 1999
  • Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, University of Rochester, 1994
  • Camille & Henry Dreyfus Teacher- Scholar, 1974


RESEARCH AREAS - Feinberg Group for Chemical Reaction Network Theory

  • Complex Chemical Systems.
  • Emeritus - no longer accepting graduate students.


Chemical Reaction Network Theory. My students and I are interested in complex chemical systems in which several reactions occur simultaneously. Real systems are almost always of this kind, so it becomes important to understand reactors with complicated chemistry in a systematic way.

Complex chemistry gives rise to intricate systems of nonlinear equations that don’t lend themselves to analytic solution. What’s more, increased complexity in the governing equations can give rise to complicated new phenomena that simple systems don’t admit. Even in the isothermal setting normally studied in biology there can, for example, be unstable steady states, multiple steady states, sustained composition oscillations, and wild, chaotic dynamics—possibilities we need to take into account. 

Since each new network of chemical reactions gives rise to its own complicated system of differential equations, it becomes apparent that, in the absence of an overarching theory, we would be forced to study complex chemical systems on a case-by-case basis, and each new case would be fraught with terrible analytical difficulties. What’s needed is a way of looking at things from a broader and more general perspective. 

That’s what Chemical Reaction Network Theory tries to do. The aim of the theory is to tie aspects of reaction network structure in a precise way to the variety of qualitative behaviors that might be engendered. A lot of progress has been made along these lines, but there is also much that remains unknown.  For more on chemical reaction network theory, see the annotated bibliography.

Other Areas of Study. Although my attention now is largely focused on chemical reaction network theory, with particular reference to biology, I maintain an interest in two other areas with which I was intensely occupied in the past. One of these is mathematical foundations of classical thermodynamics. Another is a general theory of reactor-separator design, which has some ties, at least in spirit, with classical thermodynamics and with reaction network theory. In particular, I am interested in understanding theoretical limits to what can be achieved, consistent with certain design constraints, over all possible steady-state designs (even unimagined ones) that are consistent with those constraints. Articles about both topics can be found in the annotated bibliography.


  • October, 2011

    Wilhelm Lectures.

  • December, 2005

    Amundson Lectures.

  • January, 2005

    Distinguished Scholar Award.

  • January, 2001

    Scott Faculty Award for Research and Teaching.

  • January, 1999

    MacQuigg Award for Undergraduate Teaching.

  • January, 1997

    John Von Neumann Lecture in Theoretical Biology.

  • January, 1996

    R.H. Wilhelm Award.

  • January, 1995

    Plenary Lecturer, Third SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems.

  • January, 1994

    Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

  • January, 1974

    Camille & Henry Dreyfus Teacher- Scholar.

Papers in Proceedings


  • Feinberg, M. "Geometric control theory and classical problems of chemical reactor design." in 15th IFAC World Congress. (1 2003).


  • Feinberg,M "Recent results in optimal reactor synthesis via attainable region theory." in 15th International Symposium on Chemical Reaction Engineering (ISCRE 15). (7 1999).
  • Feinberg,M "Recent results in optimal reactor synthesis via attainable region theory." in 15th International Symposium on Chemical Reaction Engineering (ISCRE 15). (7 1999).


  • Feinberg, M.and Schlosser, P "A new test for the possibility of multiple steady states in isothermal reactors with complex chemistry." (1 1985).


  • Feinberg, M. and Schowalter, W. "Conditions for the stability of cylindrical Couette flow of certain viscoelastic liquids." in Fifth International Congress on Rheology. (1 1969).