Virginia Tech: Invent the Future Department of Chemical Engineering


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Chemical Engineering at Virginia Tech

Department of Chemical Engineering

Xin received the NACS Travel Award to present an invited talk in 16th International Congress on Catalysis, Beijing, China

Hongliang Xin

Prof. Xin was selected as one of the 10 awardees to receive the North American Catalysis Society Travel Award for attending the 16th International Congress on Catalysis in Beijing, China. Dr. Xin will deliver an invited talk on the machine-learning approach for catalyst discovery. The blueprint for applying the approach in CO2 electrocatalyst design has been highlighted in two recent publications (X. Ma, et al. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 2015, and Z. Li, et al., Catalysis Today, 2016). This collaborative research with Dr. Luke Achenie has recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation's Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) Division, aiming to develop a holistic framework for accelerating catalyst discovery.

We gratefully acknowledge the North American Catalysis Society for providing supplemental funding for support of attendance at the 16th International Congress on Catalysis to be held in Beijing, China, July 3-8, 2016. Funding for this program has been provided by federal agencies (NSF, DOE) and industry (ExxonMobil, UOP).

Department of Chemical Engineering

ChE Undergraduates Participate in Deloitte National Case Competition


In April 2016, a team of Virginia Tech undergraduates participated in the Deloitte National Case Competition. The Virginia Tech team was comprised of James Lavinder (Chemical Engineering), Peter Gula (Chemical Engineering), Cal Wontrop (Finance and Accounting), and Thomas Arruda (Finance and Accounting). The Virginia Tech team, the only team with two engineers, was first runner up and excelled due to their diversity of academic backgrounds.

The Deloitte R.I.S.E. National Case Competition provides students the opportunity to showcase their abilities and gain experience solving real problems faced by real world clients. Participants work in teams to analyze the case, interact with Deloitte professionals, and present their solution to a panel of judges both in written and oral form. This specific competition focuses on risk-based advisory services. Upon winning one's regional competition, teams are hosted at Deloitte University for the national competition. The competing schools were selected from Deloitte's recruiting campuses: Bentley University, Fordham University, California Polytechnic Institute at San Luis Obispo, Michigan State University, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Texas at Austin, and Virginia Tech.

Department of Chemical Engineering: ChE-car

The Chemical Engineering Chem-E-Car team places third in the Chem-E-Car competition at the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Conference

ChE Car 2016 Team

The Virginia Tech Chem-E-Car team placed third in the Chem-E-Car competition at the 2016 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Conference in Newark, Delaware on April 9. This was the team’s fourth consecutive top three performance in regional competition, this year competing against twenty eight other cars. The team now advances to the national competition to be held in San Francisco this November.

The Chem-E-Car competition tests a team's ability to design and construct a shoe-box sized car that is powered by a chemical energy source that safely carries a specified load over a given distance and stops by direct control of a chemical reaction. Virginia Tech's team consists of two seniors: team leader Tyler Reif (Reston, VA), and Yining Hao (Chengdu, China); and four juniors: Bobby Hollingsworth (Springfield, VA), Courtner Clark (Leesburg, VA), Rebecca Engler (Hockessin, Delaware), and Olivia Fischer (Fairfax, Virginia). Their faculty advisors are Dr. David Cox, Professor and Department Head of Chemical Engineering and Dr. Stephen Martin, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering.

After placing highly at previous national and regional competitions, the Hokies decided to design a completely new vehicle this year. The Virginia Tech team utilized a lead acid-based battery that powered the vehicle, and implemented on-board computer control to manage the vehicle systems and monitor a novel cinnamaldehyde-based chemical reaction to stop the car.

The team gratefully acknowledges the support of VT alumnus Steve Cope who provided funding for the project, and the generous support of staff in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Professor Stephen Martin received a Dean's Award for Outstanding Service.

Dean Richard Benson and Dr. Stephen Martin

Department of Chemical Engineering

Durrill wins Wine Award for Teaching Excellence

Preston Durrill

Dr. Preston Durrill, undergraduate advisor and adjunct professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, has received the university’s 2016 William E. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence. Durrill has been active in the Chemical Engineering Department since 1983 when he began as an instructor for the summer unit operations laboratory, CHE 4014. In 2004, after retiring from the Chemistry Department at Radford University, he began teaching the introductory course in for chemical engineering sophomores, ChE 2114 Mass and Energy Balances, and serving as an undergraduate academic advisor. That same year, Durrill also began teaching Chem 1035 and 1036 General Chemistry I and II to hundreds of freshmen in the Department of Chemistry.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to Preston for his dedication and outstanding service to our student body and department.

Department of Chemical Engineering: Erdogan Kiran

Dr. Erdogan Kiran will deliver the opening Plenary Lecture at the 15th European Meeting on Supercritical Fluids

Professor Erdogan Kiran

Dr. Erdogan Kiran, Professor of Chemical Engineering and former Department Head will be delivering the opening Plenary Lecture at the 15th European Meeting on Supercritical Fluids (EMSF 2016) which will be held in Essen, Germany during May 8-11, 2016. Dr. Kiran is an internationally recognized expert on supercritical fluids and their applications for polymer modifications. His current research is funded by NSF and Industrial organizations. His talk is entitled “Current Trends in Supercritical Fluid Science and Technology and Challenges for Future Advancements in Polymer Applications". He has also recently published a critical review article "Supercritical Fluids and Polymers - The year in review - 2014" which, even though just appearing in print in the April 2016 issue of the Journal of Supercritical Fluids, has been downloaded nearly 2000 times by researchers in the field.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Xin and Achenie receive a NSF grant from CBET Catalysis program to develop efficient electrocatalysts for converting CO2 to value-added chemicals and fuels

Professors Hongliang Xin and Luke Achenie

Professor Xin and Professor Achenie have received a $380,942 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) Division to develop novel multimetallic nanomaterials for the efficient electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) to value-added chemicals and fuels. This has the dual benefit of reducing the emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2 and moving closer to a sustainable energy future based on a closed loop carbon cycle fueled by a combination of solar energy and electrochemical conversion processes. The PIs will bring together expertise of density functional theory calculations, ab initio molecular dynamics - aided by advanced machine-learning algorithms - to predict materials combinations that lower the over-potential for electrochemical reduction of CO2 to ethylene and ethanol. The research is based on a three-step approach that first unravels the active site and reaction mechanism of CO2 reduction on Cu nanostructures, then creates predictive models linking nanoparticle composition and structure to the surface reactivity by machine-learning models, and lastly, develops an integrated framework for accelerating catalyst discovery.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Engineering students participate in Service without Borders

Don Savacool (at left), a junior majoring in chemical engineering from Flemington, New Jersey, works with a Dhumba community member to collect information and measurements the Service Without Borders team will use to create designs for an irrigation system.

Service without Borders (SWB) is an interdisciplinary, student-led organization whose mission is to share the spirit of Virginia Tech's motto, UtProsim, locally and globally by providing assistance to communities in need. SWB projects engage students in real-world design, project management, construction, marketing, fund raising, and cultural experiences. In January 2016, a group of Virginia Tech students and professors traveled to Nepal to assess earthquake damage in the culturally Tibetan community of Dhumba.
In partnership with the Dhumba village leaders, the SWB team decided that rehabilitation of the village irrigation system would have the greatest effect on agricultural productivity and livelihoods in the community. Locally, Service without Borders is involved with projects in and around the Blacksburg community.
Please click on the link for more information about Service without Borders.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Abby Whittington receives the Auburn University Outstanding Alumna Award for 2016

Abby Whittington receives the Auburn University Department of Polymer and Fiber Engineering's Outstanding Alumna Award for 2016

The Department of Polymer and Fiber Engineering at Auburn University awarded its 2016 Outstanding Alumni Award to Abby R Whittington, PhD. Dr Whittington graduated Summa cum Laude from the department in 2000 when it was known as Textile Engineering with a degree in Textile Chemistry. She was specifically noted for her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006, more than 20 publications in peer reviewed journals, recent promotion to Associate professor with tenure in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at Virginia Tech, and her patent application in the development of new imagible polymers specifically designed for pediatric medical devices. She was honored on April 8, 2016 during the Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Annual Awards Ceremony in Auburn, AL.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Dr. Gary Whiting Joins the ChE Department

Dr. Gary Whiting

Dr. Gary K. Whiting has joined the ChE Department as a Professor of Practice. Dr. Whiting brings a wealth of technical and business expertise to the department from a 30+ year career at DuPont. His duties include undergraduate advising, mentoring and teaching. In addition, he will lead the department’s business focus area and teach CHE 4144: Business and Marketing for the Process Industry. Dr. Whiting has a long connection to the university, having received both an M.S. in Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

Welcome home Gary!

Department of Chemical Engineering

Rajagopalan Named Hord Professor

Padma Rajagopalan

Professor Padma Rajagopalan has been appointed the Robert H. Hord, Jr. Professor of Chemical Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. The professorship was established to acknowledge and reward faculty at the rank of professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering who have shown exceptional merit in research, teaching and/or service. The Hord Professorship is funded through an endowment that was established by a generous gift from the late Robert E. Hord, Jr., a 1950 Master of Science graduate in power and fuel engineering. Mr. Hord was an enthusiastic supporter of Virginia Tech’s chemical and mechanical engineering programs.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 2007, Rajagopalan is a recipient of the prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and a winner of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research in the College of Engineering. She is a past holder of the Robert E. Hord, Jr. Faculty Fellowship.

Dr. Rajagopalan is internationally recognized for her work on the development of model tissue constructs and the study of cell-substratum interactions, and serves the nation as a standing member of the Biomaterials and Biointerfaces Study Section for the National Institutes of Health. She also serves the broader campus community as the Director of the ICTAS Center for Systems Biology of Engineered Tissues, and the Program Director of the Computational Tissue Engineering Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program.

Department of Chemical Engineering

ChE Doctoral Student, Sophia Orbach, has been awarded a Sigma Xi Research Award

Sophia Orbach

Congratulations to Sophia Orbach for being awarded the 2015-2016 Sigma Xi Ph.D. Research Award from the Virginia Tech Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society. This award recognizes outstanding researchers across the university. This year, the society's focus was on the environment. Sophia was nominated for her innovative research on investigating the toxicity of environmental chemicals on liver function.

Congratulations Sophia!

Department of Chemical Engineering: Oyama

Oyama named AAAS Fellow

Professor S. Ted Oyama has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Oyama, also on faculty at the University of Tokyo, was recognized for his research in catalytic fuel processing, selective oxidation of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compound elimination, steam reforming, and membrane processes. He has been a pioneer in the development of heterogeneous catalysts and advanced inorganic membranes.

See full announcement here.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Karim and Coworkers Featured on the Cover of Chemical Communications

Cover for ChemComm 2015

A recent paper published in the Journal of Chemical Communications by Prof. Ayman Karim and coworkers has been chosen by the editors as the Back Cover for the December 2015 Issue. The paper describes a novel concept for upgrading the vapors generated from the pyrolysis of biomass to fuel precursors without external hydrogen supply. The concept uses a hierarchically structured catalyst with steam reforming and hydrodeoxygenation functionalities being deposited in the micropores and macropores, respectively. The hierarchical structure restricts the larger, more valuable molecules from reaching the active site (e.g. Pt) for steam reforming in the micropores where the smaller oxygenates react to generate H2. The H2 generated from small oxygenates in the micropores is used to hydrodeoxygenate the large molecules in the macropores (on PtFe), thereby eliminating the need for external H2 supply and improving the carbon efficiency of the process.

Karim's collaborators include Junming Sun from the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering at Washington State University (WSU), Xi Li, James Rainbolt, Libor Kovarik, Yongsoon Shin from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Yong Wang who serves in a joint position between WSU and PNNL.

Department of Chemical Engineering: Liu-ADP

Chemical engineering faculty member Y.A. Liu wins Virginia Professor of the Year honor

Congressman Morgan Griffith (Virginia, 9th District) invites Professor and Mrs. Y. A. Liu to the U.S. Capital on November 19, 2015 and congratulates Professor Liu to receive the U.S. Professors of the Year Award as Carnegie Foundation Virginia Professor of the Year for 2015.

Y.A. Liu, who holds an Alumni Distinguished Professorship, is the 2015 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Virginia Professor of the Year.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), part of the Carnegie Foundation, administers the highly selective U.S. Professors of the Year program.
"My teaching philosophy is to challenge our undergraduate students to maximize their potential and achieve excellence in both their school work and in their future careers, while providing them with the necessary tools and motivation for life-long learning," Liu said.

Complete article

Department of Chemical Engineering

Spotlight on Achievement Archive

Personal experiences drive Bobby Hollingsworth to make a difference in medicine

Bobby Hollingsworth helps with research aimed at reducing side effects of treatment through new combinations of therapies. He also uses software to investigate a recently discovered anti-HIV therapeutic and how it inhibits HIV entry into cells.

Read full story here.

Department of Chemical Engineering

ChE Doctoral Student, Sophia Orbach, selected by the Society of Toxicology to be a "Gold Level Award Recipient"

Sophia Orbach

Congratulations to Sophia Orbach for being selected by the Society of Toxicology to be a "Gold Level Award Recipient" based on her meritorious abstract submitted to their 2015 conference "FutureTox III Bridges for Translation—Transforming 21st Century Science into Risk Assessment and Regulatory Decision-Making". Sophia's abstract is entitled "Hepatotoxicity Testing in Multi-cellular 3D Organotypic Liver Models and Their Potential for High-Throughput Studies". Her work focuses on the design of a 3D organotypic liver model. These liver models were assembled using automated procedures and scaled down to a 96-well plate. The potential of this high-throughput platform is being investigated for toxicity evaluations and drug-drug interactions.

Congratulations Sophia!

See additional article from Computational Tissue Engineering

Department of Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering Seniors Won National Competition for Safety in Process Design

Left - right: Coogan Thompson, Mai Ngo and Jared Klein
with their design course professor, Y. A. Liu.

Three Virginia Tech chemical engineering seniors from the class of 2015, Coogan Thompson of Grundy, VA, Mai Ngo of Blacksburg, VA, and Jared Klein of Sterling, VA, have won the national competition for safety in process design sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

The student group participated in the 2015 AIChE national student design competition to develop an inherently safe process for the removal of acid gases from a natural gas stream. The group won the Safety and Health Division Award for Inherently Safe Design.

This is the second year in a row that a Virginia Tech team has captured the same top award in safety in process design sponsored by the national chemical engineering professional society.

The student team will receive the award at the AIChE annual conference in Salt Lake City in November.

Chemical engineering professor Y. A. Liu taught these students their senior design courses. He credits this success to the hard work and intelligence of the students. Coogan, Ngo and Klein are now doctoral students at the University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Princeton University, respectively.

Department of Chemical Engineering: Erdogan Kiran

Erdogan Kiran to deliver a keynote at international symposium

Professor Erdogan Kiran

Erdogan Kiran, professor of chemical engineering at Virginia Tech, will deliver a keynote lecture at an international symposium focusing on undergraduate research in Seoul, South Korea.
The symposium, "ISSF 2015 - The 11th International Symposium on Supercritical Fluids," is scheduled for October 11-14.
See complete article here

Department of Chemical Engineering

Xin and Achenie combine machine learning with quantum mechanics for catalyst discovery

Xin (l) and Achenie (r)

Two chemical engineering faculty members, Luke Achenie and Hongliang Xin, along with Xianfeng Ma and Zheng Li from Xin's research group , authored the article "Machine-learning-augmented Chemisorption Model for CO2 Electroreduction Catalyst Screening" in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. This is the first example of learning from data in catalysis, which could significantly accelerate materials discovery. You can read more at AlphaGalileo, EurekAlert, or NewsWise.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Virginia Tech Department of Chemical Engineering is to educate students to become outstanding chemical engineers who possess all of the skills necessary to excel in an advanced, global society; to conduct innovative and beneficial research while training students to be the researchers of the future; and to provide service and expertise to the chemical engineering profession and society.

Chemical Engineering Program Outcomes and Objectives

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