The Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association (ChEGSA) hosted a Halloween party for graduate students and CBE faculty on the Friday before Halloween.
The room in Engineering II was filled with video games, large pizzas, and tabletops games as CBE members mingled with some decked out in Halloween costumes.
Travis Omasta, a graduate student who organized the event, said the aim was to allow for faculty and students to meet and talk with another, which is often the catalyst for both friendship and networking.
“The main goal of many of our events, the Halloween party included, is to build comradery and community within the CBE graduates.” Omasta said. “This particular event was held on Friday afternoon during typical work hours so it is easy for students and faculty to come by and socialize.”
Introductions and lively conversation was abundant throughout the event. According to Omasta, this is the kind of function ChEGSA regularly hopes to provide to the department, and there are many more events to come.
“We consider this event successful as we have all of our events this year, with our primary focus of getting more students involved, especially the ones that don’t know as many people around campus,” he said. “ChEGSA also hosts enriching events such as rapid fire presentations competitions, seminars on job and real work skills, and practices for conference presentations.”
The Chemical Engineering Department is pleased to announce Matt Stuber as an Assistant Professor whose research focus will be on process systems and optimization.
Professor Stuber received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT, and co-founded a company called WaterFX which is about making conventional approaches to water desalination more efficient and powered by renewables. He said that his work in the private sector was great experience as Director of Process Systems Engineering, and that he is excited to make the shift to academia to continue working on important challenges concerning sustainability and energy.
“WaterFX has been very successful, but I didn’t really find passion in its administration. I’m a scientist and an engineer,” Stuber said. “Sometimes too much of the tech industry is based on growth trajectories and not solving real problems. I decided to refocus my efforts on research and am very pleased to become a member of UConn’s CBE faculty.”
WaterFX, where Stuber led the efforts in all things technical, has gained much attention from national outlets like PBS, National Geographic, and even involvement with The White House, helping shape their efforts in addressing national water challenges. However, Professor Stuber is excited to work with UConn’s Institute for Advanced Systems Engineering which aligns with his experience and interests.
“The new institute has emphasized the kind of research values I consider really important. It’s a great up -and -coming institute which will be a massive force to be reckoned with,” he said.
Professor Stuber’s work at MIT focused on researching and developing theoretical mathematical tools for chemical and energy processes. His research was highly mathematical and he developed algorithms for advanced formal methods in robust and optimal design under uncertainty problems.
Professor Stuber’s research at UConn will continue to focus on process systems engineering, and in particular, rigorous design under uncertainty.
“Process systems is sort of a broad buzz word. It’s a subject of applied mathematics, computer science, and engineering. It applies systems-level thinking to engineered processes,” he said.
Professor Stuber said that his research will be somewhat similar to his work with WaterFx where he developed models and used advanced optimization methods to innovate processes for enhancing efficiency and augmenting them for renewable energy. The company’s ultimate goal is to reduce costs and enhance access to scarce natural resources through sustainable means.
“I’m definitely interested in solving real world problems. Water scarcity is directly related to issues of climate change which is a big part of what attracted me to the issue,” he said. “I’m incredibly glad to be a part of the CBE department to continue to progress this work which has timely and significant benefits to most industries as well as the natural environment.”
UConn Chemical Engineering graduate student Jian Ren has received two national awards for her innovative research on water purification. The North American Membrane Society (NAMS) awarded her a Student Fellowship Award this past May, and she will receive a Graduate Student Research Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE) at the annual meeting this upcoming November.
Both awards are highly selective as the NAMS Fellowship is given to only three students annually, and the AIChE Research Award to only six or eight. Ren said she was very honored to receive the awards, especially the NAMS Fellowship.
“The NAMS Student Fellowship is the highest student award to receive from NAMS, so I am really honored and grateful to receive this recognition in the field of membrane science and technology,” she said. “This would not be possible without the continuous support from my advisor and colleagues.”
Ren has been working with Professor Jeffrey McCutcheon on an energy efficient and cost effective method of purifying water. Conventionally, a process called reverse osmosis is used in seawater desalination and wastewater treatment. Ren’s work uses a process called forward osmosis which utilizes natural osmotic tendency at a lower cost to separate water from contaminants. Her research focuses on developing innovative hollow fiber membranes (HFM) for this process. The HFM is a semi-permeable membrane which requires much less energy than the standard membrane used in reverse osmosis.
These membranes have a straw-like shape and can achieve a high packing density, Ren said. Not only is it more effective while enabling small footprint system, but it is easier to manufacture at a large scale
“The HFM is also self-supported, which makes it easy to prototype in academic labs and manufacture in industry,” she said.
Part of what makes Ren’s research so impressive is that she built her own hollow fiber spinning system at UConn from scratch.
“Professor McCutcheon encouraged me to build the system, and I accepted because I like to challenge myself. Unless you challenge yourself you never know you had such potential,” Ren said.