Pie a Professor for AIChE

By Sydney Souder

MustainCaptionThe UConn student chapter of AIChE held a “Pie a Professor” fundraiser during the last week of classes this spring. Students lined up on the sunny Wednesday afternoon to let out a little steam on their professors right before the start of finals. The annual fundraiser took place on Fairfield Way, and charged $5 for students to shove a shaving cream pie in the face of the professor of their choice.

Dr. Bill Mustain, Associate Professor and Associate Department Head, is no stranger to the fundraiser. He was a popular target this year, and estimates he was pied “at least twenty-five times.” The good-humored professor went on to add, “I’m always happy to help the students with a good cause.”

AIChE is the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals. “We’re raising money to support student travel to professional AIChE conferences” said Paige Orlofsky, next year’s AIChE chapter president and organizer of this year’s Pie event.  Last fall, the chapter brought home many awards from the 2014 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, and they are planning to be well represented again at this year’s meeting in Salt Lake City.


CBE Undergraduates Win AIChE Poster Prizes

By Sydney Souder

Students of the CBE department excelled at AIChE’s Undergraduate Poster Competition this November. Despite fierce competition among more than 300 student presenters, six UConn Chemical Engineers took home prizes.

The 2014 AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) Annual Meeting was held in Atlanta, Georgia this year. It is the premier forum for chemical engineers, and academic and industry experts presented developments on a wide range of topics relevant to cutting-edge research, new technologies, and emerging growth areas in chemical engineering.

Over the years, the Undergraduate Poster Session has become one of the highlights of the conference. Competing students each prepared a poster detailing progress and contributions on their independent research projects. During the conference, the students presented their work to individual judges. Over 80 judges were in attendance, all of which were senior AIChE members from academia or industry.

The research categories included: Catalysis and Reaction Engineering; Sustainability; Food, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology; Separations; Environmental; Education; Fuels, Petrochemicals and Energy; Computing and Process Control; and Materials Engineering and Sciences. Awards were presented to the top posters in each division.

We’re pleased to announce that the following UConn CBE undergraduates won in their divisions:

  • Gabriella Frey – 1st Place in Separations
    “Formulating Draw Solution Mixtures for Forward Osmosis”
  • Gianna Credaroli – 2nd Place in Separations
    “A New Thin Film Composite Membrane”
  • Oscar Nordness – 2nd place in energy fuels and petrochemicals
    “Incorporation of High Pressure CLC into IGCC systems”
  • Abbey Wangstrom – 2nd place in Reaction and Catalysis Engineering
    “High Activity, High Stability Pt/ITO Fuel Cell Catalysts”
  • Clarke Palmer – 3rd Place in Fuels, Petrochemicals, and Energy
    “Reactor Design and Analysis of a Simulated moving Bed Reactor for Chemical-Looping Combustion”
  • Ari Fischer – 3rd Place in Catalysis and Reaction Engineering
    “Thermochemical CO2 and H2O Splitting Via Chemical-Looping with Cerium and Cobalt Mixed Oxides for Oxygen Generation”

After their hard work, the CBE faculty treated our undergraduates to a night on the town.

AIChE Atlanta

CBE Professor 2014 Kunesh Award Recipient

By Sydney Souder

mccutcheon_jeffrey2012_profileDr. Jeffrey McCutcheon, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is the recipient of the prestigious 2014 FRI/ John G. Kunesh Award. This award, presented by the Separations Division of AIChE, acknowledges outstanding separations scientists under the age of 40. Dr. McCutcheon received this highly competitive international award for his outstanding achievements and contributions in the field of osmotic separations. “I have long made AIChE a part of my professional network,” says McCutcheon. “And I am eager to continue that throughout my career.”

Dr. McCutcheon is a leading scholar in the development, characterization, and performance testing of novel membranes for forward osmosis applications. His substantial contributions have been recognized by the industrial community. In the past three years, he has received the Solvay Specialty Polymers Young Faculty Award, the 3M Faculty award, and the DuPont Young Professor award.

Dr. McCutcheon is the Director of the Sustainable Water and Energy Learning Laboratory (SWELL). His early work included pioneering studies on forward osmosis (FO), a salinity gradient process that uses osmotic potential for driving a desalination process. This work has since expanded to consider other osmotically driven membrane processes.

“Water is a key component of economic growth, and it is a necessary commodity to help humanity emerge from the global economic slowdown. My research seeks to reduce the cost of producing drinking quality water from saline or otherwise impaired water sources,” he says. “I am excited by revolutionary technologies that approach the challenges of desalination and water reuse in a unique and cost effective manner.”

UConn hosts 2014 Northeast Regional AIChE Conference

By  Sydney Souder

AIChEUconnThe Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering was the proud host of the 2014 Northeast Student Regional Conference for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers on April 4-5, 2014. The event attracted more than 300 undergraduate chemical engineering students from 21 schools, traveling from as far as McGill, Cornell and Maine, to as near as UMass and the University of New Haven.

After one and a half years of preparation, the UConn planning committee was excited to see the conference come to life. The day’s success was a remarkable feat considering UConn’s initial plans were to accommodate no more than 200 guests. “I was pleased by the support of our committee and the dedication of our volunteers,” says Nathan Kastner, UConn undergrad (Cheg ’14) and chair of the regional conference.

Each year, the AIChE conference consists of several signature events including the Student Paper Competition, the Chem-E Car race, the Student Poster Competition, and the Chem-E Jeopardy challenge.

ChemECarTestSaturday kicked off with the paper competition where students delivered technical talks on their personal research, followed by a question and answer session led by a panel of faculty judges. Contestants were evaluated on the execution of their designs and results, in addition to their delivery and interaction with the audience. “The quality of the papers and the poise of the students were very impressive this year,” commented Prof. Dan Burkey of the University of Connecticut. Michelle Teplensky of MIT authored the winning paper presentation, “Controlled Release of Type-2 Diabetes Systems.”

Next, twenty-two ambitious students participated in the Poster Competition. Each student’s poster was visited by four judges who assessed the overview of their research findings and approaches. Christina Bailey of WPI took top honors with her project entitled, “Gold Nanoparticle Interactions with Model Biological Membranes.” UConn’s Abbey Wangstrom (Cheg ‘15) took second honors.

ChemECarTakeOffThe Chem-E car race was an intense day-long affair. Leading up to the competition, students designed model-sized cars powered by a chemical reaction. Their machines were required to stop after a specific distance, either by exhausting their fuel supply at just the right moment, or by the triggering of a different chemical reaction.

The 14 competing teams spent the morning preparing the proper mixtures and formulas for their cars, and then held their breaths in anticipation, hoping that their machines would halt at the precise distance—25 meters—revealed just hours before. Cornell’s “Battery Car” entry was the most successful, stopping within inches of the mark. “Each teams’ spirit was contagious, and their focus to rise to the challenge made it a thrilling event and a great day overall,” said Kastner.

ChemEJeopardyThose not involved in the car competition cheered their teams on in the Chem-E Jeopardy challenge. With trivia categories including kinetics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, and more, 12 teams of four proved who was savviest in chemical engineering related topics. During a thrilling Final Jeopardy round, WPI knocked Clarkson University out of first place by betting it all and coming out on top.

The winners of each regional competition will compete on the national stage in Atlanta this November.

The conference concluded with an awards banquet and a keynote speech by UConn alumnus Mark Vergnano, executive vice president of DuPont. Vergnano shared his career journey with the attendees, and the personal values driving both him and DuPont. He also detailed the exciting future in store for the world of chemical engineering and how he would approach starting a career if he were to do so in today’s world.

Vergnano ended with an extended question and answer period, giving students the opportunity to draw on his extensive achievements from their own perspective. “Based on my interaction with the students at this event, I feel very good about the future of Chemical Engineering,” he said afterwards.


AIChE 2013 Annual Conference Draws Strong Attendance from CBE Undergrads

By Jayna Miller

aichemeet1The University of Connecticut Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering undergraduate students recently attended the AIChE 2013 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The AIChE Annual Meeting is an educational forum for chemical engineers focused on research, growth, and innovation. Industry and academic professionals discussed a variety of topics relating to new research, technologies, and studies in chemical engineering.

During the conference, undergraduate students attended events designed to present current research on the latest advances in core areas of chemical engineering, while also covering specific topical areas. Specialty topics included related fields such as alternative energy, sustainability, bioengineering, and process safety.

Several undergrad students gave presentations on their research. William Hale, working with Chemical & Biomolecular professors Ranjan Srivastava and Richard Parnas, presented “Design Optimization by Response Surface Methodology for Continuous Fermentative Production of 1,3 Propanediol From Waste Glycerol By Product of Biodiesel Processes.” Oscar Nordness, a Junior working with Zhiquan Zhou and professor George Bollas, presented in both the oral and poster competitions, and won the 2nd award in the Student Poster Competition. Oscar’s poster title was “Reactivity Analysis of Ni, Cu, Fe Oxygen Carriers in Fixed Bed Chemical Looping Combustion.” His oral presentation was “On the kinetics of Ni-based oxygen carrier reduction and oxidation studied in thermogravimetric analysis and fixed-bed reactors.”



CBE Will Host the 2014 AIChE Northeast Regional Student Conference

After a round of competitive bidding, it was announced that the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of Connecticut will host the 2014 AIChE Northeast Regional Student Conference.
To be held in the spring of 2014, the regional conference is a place where students from schools around the northeast will come together to share their undergraduate research experiences, attend workshops, and network with other students and local companies that will sponsor the event. Highlights of the conference will include the undergraduate paper and poster competitions, and the highly anticipated Chem-E-Car competition.
Regional winners from all of these events will earn the opportunity to compete on the national stage at the annual professional meeting, which will be held in Atlanta in Fall 2014. The student executive board will begin planning for this event now, and companies or alumni that may be interested in participating, please contact Professor Daniel Burkey.

Join CBE at Innovation Connection

The Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering department invites you to our Innovation Connection networking event on Thursday, July 25th at Nerac, Inc. The panel topic will center on Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), which is a program that brings undergraduate students to campus for summer research and development in energy, environmental, process, polymer and materials, and bioengineering and biotechnology areas. We will have a lively discussion with students who worked on projects and were enrolled in a business and entrepreneurship course on the mechanics of business.  They include:

KX Technologies: Justine Jesseinnovationconnection
Faculty Advisor: Professor McCutcheon

W.R. Grace: Isaac Batty
Faculty Advisor: Professor Bollas

Scitech Solar: Kyle Stachowiak
Faculty Advisor: Professor Willis

Proton OnSite: Joseph Amato
Faculty Advisor: Professor Maric

KX Technologies: Zacharia Rueger
Faculty Advisor: Professor McCutcheon

RPM Sustainable Technologies: William Hale
Faculty Advisor: Professor Parnas

VeruTech: Kyle Karinshak
Faculty Advisor: Professor Suib

Nanostannate Film: Urian Vue
Faculty Advisor: Professor Gao

BASF: Ryan Carpenter
Faculty Advisor: Professor Shor

The monthly Innovation Connection networking series began at UConn in late 2010 as a way to bring together business technology owners, large company representatives and the best and brightest of UConn students and faculty to share ideas and build connections.

Everyone is invited!

Date: Thursday, July 25th
Time: 3:30 – 4:30 – Panel Discussion
4:30 – 6:30 – Innovation Connection Networking Reception
Location: Nerac, Inc.; One Technology Drive; Tolland, CT  06084 (860-872-7000)

Please RSVP. We hope to see you there!

UConn Places First in AIChE “ChemE Car” Poster Competition

On April 13th and 14th, thirteen UConn Chemical Engineering students took part in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Regional Conference at UMass-Amherst.

While at the conference, the students participated in AIChE’s ChemE Car competition. This competition challenges students to build a car that can travel between 15 and 30 meters, carrying anywhere between 0 and 500 grams. Students are not told the exact numbers until the day of the competition, at which time they are allowed to make minor adjustments to suit the requirements. The competition’s rules stipulate that the car must be autonomous, powered by chemical reaction, and without mechanical or electrical brakes. In addition to the car, each group creates a poster explaining their car—the chemical reaction that powers it, stopping mechanism, safety features, design, circuitry, and special features. The UConn team, advised by Dr. William Mustain, placed first of nine teams in this poster competition.

This was the first time UConn has sent a car to compete at the conference. Though the UConn group’s car, named “Harold Chegger,” did not place in the competition, the team is all very pleased with its performance. The group is looking forward to refining the car for competition next year.

In addition to participating in the competition, the group was invited by Governor Malloy to present their car at the Next Gen CT news conference, held on April 11th. The event highlighted the growing support among industry, legislature, faculty, and students for the Next Generation Connecticut initiative. This proposal would support UConn’s expansion in the STEM (science, technology, math, and engineering) disciplines.

Chemical Engineering Well Represented at Annual AIChE Meeting 2012

UConn chemical engineering students shone at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) annual meeting held in Pittsburgh from October 26th to November 2nd.  With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard, it was challenging to get everyone out to the conference in advance of the storm, and some faculty and students were unable to attend.

Despite the weather setbacks, during the undergraduate conference, which preceded the professional/academic portion of the conference, UConn’s AIChE student members performed admirably.  Officers Breanne Muratori (chapter President) and Kimberly Dout (chapter Secretary) attended student leadership events, which they found to be informative and productive in terms of networking with fellow officers across the country.

Seven undergraduates participated in the undergraduate poster competition.  Emily Anderson (‘12), advised by Dr. Leslie Shor, was awarded first place in the Environmental Science and Engineering division for her poster, “Impact of Hydrogel Content on Water Retention in Soil Micromodels.”  Additionally, Breanne Muratori, advised by Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, gave an oral presentation entitled “Improving the Mechanical Properties of Activated Carbon Nanofiber Nonwovens.” It was one of only a handful of talks given by undergraduates at the meeting and reflects UConn AIChE’s dedication to better bridging the student section and the professional conference.

(Left to right) Dr. Daniel Burkey, Breanne Muratori, Kimberly Dout


In celebration of their accomplishments, the UConn chemical engineering students and faculty held a dinner at the Bigelow Grille in Pittsburgh.  A bonus of Hurricane Sandy’s grounding of the group in Pittsburgh was that it enabled the undergraduates to stay a few extra days and experience the larger professional conference, including the university hospitality suites. UConn’s hospitality suite was a great success, with over 300 alumni and friends in attendance.

(From left to right) Kelsey Boch, Breanne Muratori, Christine Nykyforchyn, Dr. Leslie Shor, Laurelle Giovannoli, Kimberly Dout, Amanda Card, Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, Emily Anderson, Andrea Kadilac, Dan Anastasio, Dr. Aravind Suresh, Ari Fischer, Dr. George Bollas