Faculty

Anson Ma Wins Arthur B. Metzner Early Career Award

Momentum logoRepublished with permission of Momentum,

a School of Engineering electronic publication.

 

Anson_profile2013

Anson Ma, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Institute of Materials Science, has been awarded the prestigious Arthur B. Metzner Early Career Award.

The award, which comes with a plaque and a $7,500 honorarium, goes to a young person who has made significant accomplishments in rheology, which is the study of the flow of matter.

Ma was nominated by Malcolm Mackley, Emeritus Professor at Cambridge University, who worked with Ma from 2005 to 2009 on the rheology of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) suspended in epoxy and acrylic resins. In his nomination, Mackley wrote:

Anson, with his meticulous approach to science and rheology made sense of difficult experiments. Working together with Prof Paco Chinesta, who is now at Ecole Centrale des Nantes, Anson was the glue that made the link between experiment and some high level suspension rheological modeling.

At UConn, Ma and his team apply experimental and theoretical rheology to a broad range of important application areas. Since 2011, Ma has supervised three postdoctoral fellows, four PhD students, and three visiting students from France. He has also hosted 21 undergraduate students, three high school teachers, and eight
minority high school students to provide them with early research experience related to rheology. To engage younger students and the local community, Ma has chosen food science and, more specifically, rheology of culinary foams and emulsions as the theme for his outreach plan.

Research Insight: Nanostar

By Sydney Souder

NanostarCaptionDr. Mu-Ping Nieh hopes to discover elusive secrets in the nano-structures of functional materials using the new X-ray scattering machine he and his collaborators have secured for the University of Connecticut. His work focuses on the study of soft materials, and in particular, understanding their nanoscopic structures to optimize their functions. With the new, top-of-the-line Nanostar SAXS instrument, Dr. Nieh expects to take his research to the next level.

Acquired through a competitive National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Grant, the Nanostar SAXS is a sophisticated instrument that allows researchers to probe the nanostructures of materials in a large sample area. Specifically, it can identify the shape, size, aggregation behavior, polydispersity, interparticle interactions and surface (interfacial) area of a system.

The instrument works by sending an X-ray beam at a sample of interest. As the X-ray hits the sample, the beam diffracts and scatters into different angles. This scatter pattern can reveal information on the nanostructure of the sample. The method can be applied to a broad range of materials including liquids, solids, thin films and gels. This makes the tool valuable for those investigating the structure-property relationship substances. It also enables industry partners to perform fundamental research and to design and develop materials . Dr. Nieh hopes to build on this interest by establishing a regional center for nanostructural characterization for UConn and industrial partners.

Beyond current and collaborative research, having access to the instrument is also an invaluable opportunity for students. “The Nanostar instrument will be used to train the next generation of scientists and engineers through hands-on research experience,” says Dr. Nieh. “I encourage potential research and industry partners to contact me if they would like to learn more.” Dr. Nieh will teach a webinar course “Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS) for Nanostructural Characterization” to the public through the Institute of Materials Science’s Affiliate Program later this year.

Bollas Receives Mentorship Excellence Award

By Sydney Souder

BollasCaption1Dr. George Bollas, Assistant Professor of the CBE Department, is the first recipient of the Office of Undergraduate Research’s (OUR) Faculty Mentorship Excellence Award. He received the award at the 18th Annual Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition on Friday, April 10, 2015.

With this award, OUR recognizes the critically significant role that mentors play in supporting their undergraduates’ research and creative activity. A committee of OUR Peer Research Ambassadors selected one faculty recipient and one graduate student for the Mentorship Excellence Award recognizing their dedication to their students.BollasCaption3

Ari Fischer, one of his mentees who contributed to his nomination, presented the plaque to Dr. Bollas. Fischer commended Dr. Bollas’ extraordinary commitment to challenging and supporting his students. He attributes Dr. Bollas’ influence to helping his mentees achieve their research, personal, and professional goals. Dr. Bollas has helped his students formulate their own research projects, apply for fellowships and publish their own work.

Bollas’ current research group consists of seven Ph.D. students, one Masters student, and 10 undergraduates. Fischer asserts that Dr. Bollas’s dedication is not limited to just those in his lab, but to all of his students; he pushes them to get the most out of their education.

Although honored by his new plaque, Dr. Bollas explained what he considers his real prize. “At the end of the day we’re given the opportunity to spend time with these amazing, fresh minds hungry for knowledge and work, and that is what is most rewarding.”

 

CBE Professor Receives Women of Innovation Award

By Sydney Souder

DMaricCaption2r. Radenka Maric, Connecticut Clean Energy Professor in Sustainable Energy in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, was honored with the Research Innovation & Leadership Award at the Women of Innovation awards ceremony on April 1, 2015.

Fifty-six finalists were honored for their innovation and leadership at the Connecticut Technology Council’s eleventh annual celebration. The Women of Innovation awards gala recognizes women accomplished in science, technology, engineering, math, and also involved in their community. The event allows like-minded, successful women to celebrate their accomplishments together.

MaricCaption1Ten of the finalists were announced as award winners during the event. Winners were chosen in eight categories. The Research Innovation & Leadership Award won by Dr. Maric is presented to a woman who has developed new knowledge or products, or improvements to products in a corporate or academic setting through original approaches to research. The Research Innovation and Leadership recipient also exhibits leadership ability by leading research teams, motivating staff and securing funding or resources to enable her research program.

Dr. Maric’s research innovation and leadership is remarkable. She is internationally recognized for her contributions in sustainable energy technologies supporting the development of efficient, fuel cell-powered vehicles; nanomaterials; and manufacturability. Dr. Maric’s research interests include: synthesis of nanomaterials, unique new materials and associated processes, catalysis, kinetics, electrochemical cell design and architecture, new analytical and diagnostic techniques, fuel cell and battery systems, alternative electrochemical fuels and reactant modification, hydrogen production and storage, and sensor technology.

“I look forward to continuing my work in research, teaching, and outreach here at the University of Connecticut,” says Dr.  Maric.

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Kelly Burke

By Sydney Souder

BurkeCaptionDr. Kelly Burke is excited by the multidisciplinary challenges of developing bio-derived polymers and stimuli-responsive materials in her lab. An assistant professor in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, her work encompasses elements of medicine, biology, chemistry, tissue engineering and materials science. As a key member of the Polymer Program in the Institute of Materials Science, she is well-poised to develop a program that answers her fundamental research questions.

In her words, Dr. Burke’s work is a marriage between her graduate and post-doctoral projects. During her graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University, she studied polymer synthesis and characterization. She then delved into the world of silk materials as an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Tufts.

SilkCaption“Typically, we think of silk as a means of creating fabrics or sutures. However, it is possible to chemically modify the proteins in silk materials to alter their functionality.” To this end, she is using her breadth of experience to create stimuli-responsive biomaterials from silk.

Dr. Burke’s goal is to manipulate silk polymers so that human cells respond to her materials. Specifically, she aims for her materials to moderate inflammation and promote healing. This could be invaluable for people with chronic diseases that impede healing, such as diabetes. Most existing wound materials are passive and only protect the area from bacteria and dirt. Dr. Burke seeks to create an interactive material that controls cells and encourages healing. Natural silkworm material is not recognized by the body, so the challenge is to ensure they respond to the chronically-inflamed environments.

“In many ways, being on the faculty at UConn is like coming home,” Dr. Burke says. An alumna who earned her B.S. in chemical engineering in 2005, she knows the people and the campus, including her favorite dairy bar ice cream flavor (Coffee Expresso Crunch).

With tremendous support from Connecticut state initiatives like Next Generation Connecticut, Tech Park, and Bioscience Connecticut, Dr. Burke says with a smile, “It’s an exciting time to be at UConn.”

 

 

 

 

 

Doug Cooper Elected as Fellow of AIChE

Cooper The Board of Directors of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers has elected Dr. Doug Cooper as a Fellow of AIChE. To be considered for the honor, a candidate must practice chemical engineering for at least 25 years, and be a member of AIChE for at least ten. Election as Fellow recognizes both service for the betterment of society and the profession, and professional accomplishment in engineering, management, research, education, or entrepreneurship.

Dr. Cooper has excelled in a number of these categories. Currently professor and head of the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Cooper has also served as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at UConn.

His recent academic pursuits focus on helping nontraditional students engage in STEM disciplines. His research focus is on process control system analysis and design. He also has an ongoing interest in mentoring students in entrepreneurship, creativity, leadership, and life-long learning.

Dr. Cooper has authored and co-authored 85 scholarly publications, garnered more than $6 million in research funding from government and industry. In addition, he has been inducted into the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (2004), honored by the Carnegie Foundation as the Connecticut Professor of the Year (2004), and designated as a Teaching Fellow at UConn (2003).

“Most of all,” says Dr. Cooper, “I enjoy interacting with students and guiding their intellectual growth.” He has taught engineering classes at all undergraduate and graduate levels, and has innovated software and supporting materials for teaching automatic process control, now used by 250 academic institutions around the world.

In 2004, Dr. Cooper founded Control Station, Inc., a company that offers a portfolio of industrial process control solutions and services to manufacturers. With a dozen employees, including four chemical engineers, Control Station offers an array of best-in-class technologies for optimizing plant operation.

“I am honored to join the ranks of Fellow of AIChE,” says Dr. Cooper.

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.”

CBE Professor Awarded Prestigious NARSAD Grant

By Sydney Souder

cho_yongku_profileDr. Yongku Cho, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has received a prestigious and highly competitive NARSAD Young Investigator Grant. Funded through the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, NARSAD grants are dedicated to research in brain and behavior disorders. The Young Investigator Grant supports promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research.

Dr. Cho’s two-year grant offers cho microscope captioncritical backing to enable him to collect pilot data for his innovative ideas. His grant will support Dr. Cho’s research group to develop a novel approach for rapid and reversible knockout of target genes. His group will research which regulated protein levels affect brain circuits. They will specifically study the mechanism of GABAA receptor dysfunction. Deficits in GABAA receptor function have been linked to multiple neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as epilepsy and schizophrenia. With his new technique, he intends to study the role of GABAA receptor interacting proteins, which may lead to therapeutic targets for such diseases.

First exposed to engineered antibodies during his graduate cho cell captionresearch at Wisconsin, Dr. Cho is now interested in manipulating these proteins to include new functions. “The broader objective of the work is to engineer antibodies with useful functionalities that they normally would not have,” says Dr. Cho.

If successful, this project could have wide applications and might connect with UConn’s interests as well. Dr. Cho foresees a potential collaboration with the Jackson laboratory for Genomic Medicine. The new laboratory at UConn’s Farmington campus seeks genomic solutions to disease, making medicine more precise and predictable. They are one of world’s leading institutes for transgenic mouse research.

“With the methods from this research, we might be able to pinpoint gene functions within such model organisms,” says Cho. For more information on Dr. Cho and his research, please visit his website.

 

Dr. Yu Lei Receives US Patent for Explosive Detecting Sensors

By Sydney Souder

Lei CaptionDr. Yu Lei, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, received a US Patent for his explosive detection technology.Lei Sensor Caption

Working with Ying Wang, a former graduate student, Dr. Lei engineered a sensor that provides clear and near-instant results upon contact with explosive vapors. “We initially wanted to synthesize low-cost materials that change color almost immediately when in contact with explosives,” says Lei. The project proved successful and was recently awarded a patent entitled, “Explosives Detection Substrate and Methods of Using the Same.”

The detector senses a range of explosives, from TNT used in construction, to RDX used by the military. It reveals minute traces of explosives when exposed to UV light and viewed by the naked eye.

Lei is now expanding his detection technologies in other forms beyond vapor detection. His latest research seeks to develop a nanoporous florescent film and a fluorescent protein that can reveal explosives in aqueous solutions.

These projects acknowledge funding by the National Science Foundation, the University of Connecticut Prototype Fund, and the Department of Homeland Security. For more information on Dr. Lei and his research, please visit his website.

A Short Interview With Dr. Ioulia (Julia) Valla About Women in Engineering

Women have traditionally been underrepresented in the field of Engineering, but things are changing. Dr. Ioulia (Julia) Valla is an Assistant Research Professor in the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Valla has won recognition for her work on cleaner fuels while working in industry and academics and is the leader of the iKnowGreen Team. iKnowGreen at the University of Connecticut, is a place for students, teachers, and UCONN engineers to explore green energy together.