Curt Thies, professor of chemical engineering, 89

Thies was on the chemical engineering faculty for 30 years

Beth Miller 

Curt Thies, a professor of chemical engineering in the Engineering school at Washington University in St. Louis for 30 years, died Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, from complications of dementia. He was 89.

Thies joined the Engineering school faculty at WashU as an associate professor in 1973. He became full professor in 1976 and retired in 2002.

Thies’ research area was in microencapsulation, which is commonly used today in sustained-release medications. He was a member of an international research team developing targeted drug delivery for cancer. The team invented biodegradable microspheres filled with anticancer chemicals to be injected into veins and arteries to make use of the body's own delivery system to send deadly messages to tumors.

He also collaborated on a project to develop a long-acting form of a drug used to treat alcoholism by microencapsulating the drug for injection. This drug produced aversive symptoms in those who drink even small amounts of alcohol. Another project involved the use of microcapsules for fertilizing mushrooms: By putting fertilizer into a microcapsule that dissolves at a known rate, mushroom growers could fertilize less frequently.

In the Fall 2002 issue of Washington magazine, Claudia Wright, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1976, said "Curt was pretty unusual: He was less interested in money making research and more interested in his students. Students somehow know when a professor really wants to teach them, and there was never any question about Curt. Even though his research had direct, real-world applications, he shared this knowledge with his students and loved to see them use it. He didn't keep his discoveries to himself.” 

Thies is survived by Mary Thies, wife of 59 years; children: David Thies, Karen Thies Ames, Daniel Thies and Julie Thies; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service will be held March 23, 2024, at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Henderson, Nevada. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in his honor to Lutheran Social Services of Nevada (

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