The Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department would like to congratulate Professor Cato Laurencin on being named the 2020 Recipient of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Mike Hogg award. More information on Dr. Laurencin's work and this award can be found here.
On June 1st, Prof. Doug Cooper retired from the faculty of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. I couldn't let this occasion go unremarked upon. I’ve been fortunate to have known Doug for about 18 years now. Indeed, he was the Chair of the Search Committee that hired me. Many of you may not be aware of the numerous contributions that Doug has made to the Department, the School, and the University as a whole.
Doug joined UConn in 1985 as a freshly minted PhD from the University of Colorado and has been here ever since. Doug’s technical expertise is in the area of process control. Unlike many of his academic peers, Doug had a strong focus on industry and practical applications from the beginning. He did extensive consulting for the automotive industry in his early years and a tremendous fraction of his research funding was from industry. Doug’s interests led him down an entrepreneurial path, and he founded Control Station, Inc. Beginning as a small startup in the early 2000’s, the company weathered the recession of 2008, and today their software is used by over a third of all the Industrial Fortune 500 Companies.
Even with is his entrepreneurial leanings, Doug was a professor through and through. He translated his practical knowledge to the classroom. Doug started doing on-line teaching in the early 2000’s, long before MOOC’s were popular and before the technology and infrastructure were available. Doug instead built his own infrastructure. He started a blog which included various modules and is now an extensive resource on process control. He wrote a textbook, which he has made freely available on-line. He worked with the UConn Co-Gen plant to make it a living lab for the undergrads and to help use it as a pilot-scale test bed for his research ideas on optimization and process control. He also helped teach our students about the “softer” skills, running an annual workshop for the UConn Chapter of AIChE. He would critique resumés and work through mock interviews with students. He would teach what was appropriate to ask, what not to ask, and how to speak, dress, etc. Outside of the workshop, if any student wanted their resumé reviewed, Doug would do it.
In addition to the research and teaching, Doug’s desire to elevate UConn led him to a number of administrative roles. He served as Department Head twice. The first time was from 2004 to 2006 and the second time was from 2013 to 2016. In addition, as a testimony to his passion for education, Doug served as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education & Regional Campuses from 2009 to 2011. Finally, I would point out that Doug was also Director of Engineering Computing Services, a service I don’t believe many in the Department are aware of.
Doug’s strong efforts have been recognized via numerous accolades. He has been the recipient of the Faculty of the Year Award as selected by the graduating class multiple times. He was also selected as a University of Connecticut Teaching Fellow in 2003 and was a recipient of the extremely prestigious and competitive US Professor of the Year Award as recognized by the Carnegie Foundation in 2004. Doug is a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.
Personally, I’ve found it to be a privilege and an honor to know Doug. He helped smooth my transition here to UConn as a new faculty member when I was still learning the ropes. Throughout the entire time I’ve known Doug, one thing has become abundantly clear to me. Doug loves this Department. Everything he has done has always been in pursuit of making the Department a better place for students, staff, and faculty. Whenever I’ve spoken to Doug, his focus has always been on how we can remove impediments faced by faculty to make them as successful as possible; what are practical effective methods to teach students and what are the topics that they will really use after graduation; and what can we do to ease the ever increasing burden on our staff.
We have all been very fortunate to know Doug, and the Department is a better place for him being here. Thanks Doug for all the has done for us.
Prof. & Dept. Head
Congratulations to Professor Yu Lei and Professor Ranjan Srivastava for their induction into the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. More details may be found via the following link.
a School of Engineering electronic publication.
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.
By Sydney Souder
Dr. 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.
By Sydney Souder
Dr. 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.
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.”
By Sydney Souder
Dr. 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.
Ten 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.
By Sydney Souder
Dr. 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.
“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.”
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.