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Department of Chemical Engineering

ChE undergraduate program ranked #18 by US News & World Report

Goodwin Hall
photo courtesy of Dr William Ducker, 04/06/2017.

September 14, 2016. We are pleased to announce that the chemical engineering undergraduate program at Virginia Tech has been ranked 18th in the nation in the 2017 US News & World Report college rankings.

Department of Chemical Engineering: Liu

Virginia Tech AIChE® Student Chapter Hosts Process Safety Boot Camp

April 2017 Virginia Tech AIChE® Student Chapter Hosts Process Safety Boot Camp The Virginia Tech Student Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) hosted a two-day Process Safety Boot Camp for Students, March 25–26, at the Inn at Virginia Tech. The workshop, conducted by AIChE's Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS), was part of AIChE's Undergraduate Process Safety Learning Initiative - a major global effort to ensure that all chemical engineering graduates possess a working knowledge of process safety principles when they enter the workforce. The initiative is a core priority of the AIChE Foundation's Doing a World of Good campaign, and was generously funded by Founders' Circle members: Dow, Chevron, LyondellBasell, DuPont, Eastman, and Univar, along with other corporate supporters.

Chandler Culley, President of the Virginia Tech Student Chapter, reflected on the weekend, saying, "We were honored to have been selected out of more than 200 AIChE student chapters to host the AIChE-CCPS student boot camp in late March." She noted that the workshop focused on chemical process safety management and was attended by 40 seniors selected from the chemical process design class.

Culley added that the training opportunity "is a great example of how much the Virginia Tech Chemical Engineering Department recognizes the importance of process safety in industry." Since 2014, 100% of chemical engineering graduates from Virginia Tech have participated in the Safety and Chemical Engineering Education (SAChE) Certificate Program, consisting of online safety training courses provided to undergraduates by AIChE and CCPS. Virginia Tech's involvement in the program is led by chemical engineering professor, Y. A. Liu.

The Virginia Tech Student Chapter was chosen to host the AIChE/CCPS workshop based on its Outstanding Student Chapter status within AIChE, its award-winning record in the AIChE competition for safety in process design, its standing as a top participating university in online process safety training certification, and support from sponsor companies. "This boot camp was a great extension to the online SAChE courses, and gave seniors valuable process safety knowledge useful for leading into our fast approaching careers," Culley said. "On behalf of Virginia Tech AIChE, we would like to sincerely thank the industry speakers, Scott Berger and Frank Renshaw, for sharing their 30 years of experiences and their on-going commitment to process safety."

Boot camp instructor Frank Renshaw stated, "It was a personally rewarding and enjoyable experience to spend the weekend with Scott Berger and the Virginia Tech students in the boot camp. The class was engaged, punctual, and openly appreciative of AIChE's outreach in process safety management."

Department of Chemical Engineering

College of Engineering inducts members into the Academy of Engineering Excellence

Horacio and Amy Valeiras
March 2017.

Horacio Valeiras received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering as a member of the Class of 1980.

Following his graduation from Virginia Tech, Horacio Valeiras went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Berkeley to earn his master’s degree in chemical engineering and M.B.A., respectively. After graduating, Valeiras joined First Boston Corporation as an equity research analyst covering European technology companies.

Once involved in the capital markets, Valeiras was hooked, and later continued his work at Credit Suisse First Boston as an international strategist. In 1992, he became a partner at Miller, Anderson & Sherrerd, a Philadelphia-based money management firm with $33 billion under its control until it was acquired by Morgan Stanley in 1996. It was at this point that Valeiras became managing director for Morgan Stanley Investment Management, until 2002, when he took on the role of chief investment officer at Nicholas Applegate Capital Management.

Seven years later, Valeiras took on the same role at Allianz Global Investors, where he stayed until becoming managing partner of HAV Capital LLC in 2012.

In addition to his role at HAV Capital LLC, Valeiras serves as the member of several boards, including Virginia Tech's Board of Visitors and the Association of Governing Board of Colleges and Universities. Previously, Valeiras served as board chairman of the Virginia Tech Foundation.

Written by Erica Corder

Department of Chemical Engineering

Owens wins Class of 1954 Odyssey Fellowship

James Owens (left) and Dr. Michael Bortner (right)
March 2017.

James Owens, a sophomore in Chemical Engineering, was named the 2017 Class of 1954 Odyssey Fellow by the Virginia Tech Honors College. One of six fellowships awarded by the college each year, the Class of 1954 Odyssey Fellowship provides outstanding Honors students with unusual and interdisciplinary opportunities extending far beyond the classroom during their last two years of undergraduate study. Jim received a fellowship to cover up to $10,000 of his travel experience and university tuition.

Jim's undergraduate research has focused on multiple aspects of energy that he plans to leverage for his Odyssey experience. He worked on solar cell research during an REU at Drexel University in Summer 2016, and is now currently researching conductive transparent electrodes with Dr. Michael Bortner who also served as his faculty mentor throughout the selection process. Jim will use the fellowship to travel to South Africa and Denmark during the Summer of 2018 to conduct energy poverty research at the University of Cape Town and to study the economic and political factors affecting energy distribution.

Department of Chemical Engineering

A new model published in Physical Review Letters aims to unlock catalytic powers of gold

Hongliang Xin

March 2017
Prof. Hongliang Xin and his postdoc Dr. Xianfeng Ma authored the article "Orbitalwise Coordination Number for Predicting Adsorption Properties of Metal Nanocatalysts" in the Physical Review Letters. This new model challenges the conventional wisdom of the standard d-band model, and can potentially predict just the right formula of gold catalysts to achieve a desired outcome for a given chemical reaction. You can read more at VTNews and This work is mainly funded by the National Science Foundation Catalysis Program and partially supported by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Bobby Hollingsworth named College of Engineering Outstanding Senior for 2017

Bobby Hollingsworth

February 2017.
The College of Engineering has named Louis "Bobby" Hollingsworth as the Outstanding Senior for 2017. A 2015 Goldwater Scholarship winner, Hollingsworth will graduate in May with B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, and a B.A. degree in Chemistry.

Congratulations Bobby!

Department of Chemical Engineering: ChE-car

Julia Ross named dean of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech

Dr. Julia M. Ross

January 2017.
Virginia Tech has appointed Dr. Julia M. Ross as dean of the College of Engineering following an international search process. We are excited to welcome Dr. Ross as our new dean, and as a tenured faculty member with appointments in Chemical Engineering and Engineering Education.
Dr. Ross will begin at Virginia Tech on July 31, 2017.

Read more

Department of Chemical Engineering

Rajagopalan named fellow of AIMBE

Padma Rajagopalan

December 2016.
Professor Padma Rajagopalan, the Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor of Chemical Engineering, has been elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). The AIMBE College of Fellows represents the most accomplished and distinguished medical and biological engineers responsible for innovation and discovery, and is a select group of the top 2% of medical and biological engineering professionals.

AIMBE is a nonprofit, honorific society that serves as the authoritative voice and advocate for the value of medical and biological engineering to society. It is an organization of leaders in their fields, consisting of academic, industrial, and professional society councils; and the individually-elected members of the College of Fellows.

Congratulations Professor Rajagopalan!

Department of Chemical Engineering

Joey Sarver Places 1st at the AIChE Undergraduate Research Poster Competition

Joey Sarver and Dr Erdogan Kiran

Joey Sarver, a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering from Wytheville, Virginia placed first in the Materials Engineering and Sciences section of the undergraduate poster competition at the 2016 AIChE Annual Meeting held during November 13-18, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Currently, Joey is participating in undergraduate research in Dr. Erdogan Kiran's Supercritical Fluids lab. His poster titled "Gradient Foaming of Polymers in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide" dealt with a unique experimental system for foaming, and the recent results of foaming of Poly(methyl methacrylate) rods while analyzing the subsequent pore morphology.
Over 400 posters from around the globe were presented in topics ranging from reaction engineering to computing and process control.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Notable Publications

Rong Tong

October 2016. Dr. Rong Tong’s previous research in the treatment of otitis media by transtympanic delivery of antibiotics has been published in Science Translational Medicine and was selected for the cover of the September 14th issue. Otitis media, commonly referred to as "ear infection," is a ubiquitous childhood malady that accounts for many pediatrician visits and antibiotic prescriptions and is difficult to treat. To address these problems, Dr. Tong and coworkers developed a hydrogel-based system that permits delivery of antibiotics directly into the ear and demonstrated its effectiveness in a chinchilla model of ear infection.

In addition, his paper on "Controlled Ring-Opening Polymerization of O-Carboxyanhydrides Using a β-Diiminate Zinc Catalyst" has been published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition. The paper reports the development of a β-diiminate zinc catalyst containing methyl lactate as initiator for the living polymerization of O-carboxyanhydrides with a superior level of stereochemistry retention.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Companies Sponsor Center of Excellence in Chemical Engineering

Y.A. Liu

September 2016    China National Petroleum Company ("PetroChina"), Beijing, China, and Aspen Technology, Inc., ("AspenTech"), Bedford, Massachusetts, have signed a multi-year agreement with the Virginia Tech Foundation to sponsor a Center of Excellence in Process System Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering. The goal of the Center is to promote industrial training and graduate education in process system engineering for optimizing process manufacturing. Y. A. Liu, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, directs the Center.

PetroChina, FORTUNE's global top three corporation in terms of revenues in 2016, is the number one oil company in the world. AspenTech is the world's leading supplier of software that optimizes process manufacturing. The world’s leading oil and gas, chemical, engineering and construction, pharmaceutical, food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods companies all rely on AspenTech software to run their business.

The process system engineering team in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Virginia Tech has a successful record of accomplishments in helping with technology development and engineering training for large global corporations such as Honeywell Specialty Materials and Technologies, Formosa Petrochemical Corporation, and China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC). Over the past 20 years, Professor Liu and his graduate students have trained over 7,000 practicing engineers in the U.S., Taiwan and China to use advanced software tools to minimize costs and maximize profits in petrochemical operations. They have also published five pioneering textbooks in process system engineering that help with intelligent manufacturing, energy and water savings, and simulation and optimization of polymer plants and petroleum refineries.

Department of Chemical Engineering

NIH grant on novel genomic technology development to Chang Lu

Chang Lu

Sept 23, 2016

Dr. Chang Lu received a 3-year NIH grant with a total of $603,857 to develop advanced microfluidic tools to map epigenomes. The project is titled "Ultrasensitive microfluidic ChIP-MethylC-seq for integrative analysis of histone modification and DNA methylation". Lu will develop devices and protocols that allow mapping genome-wide interactions of histone modifications and DNA methylations with a tiny quantity of DNA. Such tools will generate biological insights into the molecular machinery that regulates gene activities during normal development and disease processes. In this project, Lu is particularly interested in studying cell-type specific epigenomic features in neurons and glia and how they are involved in brain development and functions.

The project is a part of NIH National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) program on "Novel Genomic Technology Development".

Department of Chemical Engineering: ChE-car

Chem-E-Car Team Competes in National Competition

Chem-E-Car Team Members (L to R): Jim Owens, Brett Rastatter, Courtner Clark, Rebecca Engler, Bobby Hollingsworth

November 2016. The Virginia Tech Chem-E-Car team placed seventh in the Chem-E-Car competition at the 2016 National American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Student Conference in San Francisco, California on November 13, 2016. This is the team's third consecutive top ten finish at the national competition, this year competing against forty other cars from universities across the country and around the world. The VT team also placed second in the accompanying poster competition.

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 via the direct control of a chemical reaction. Virginia Tech's team consists of two seniors: team leader Bobby Hollingsworth (Springfield, VA), and Courtner Clark (Leesburg, VA); two juniors: Rebecca Engler (Hockessin, DE), and Brett Rastatter (Woodbridge, VA); and one sophomore, Jim Owens (Downingtown, PA). Their faculty advisor is Dr. Stephen Martin, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering.

This year, the Virginia Tech car relied on a lead acid-based battery that powered the vehicle, and the team implemented on-board computer control to manage the vehicle systems and monitor a novel cinnamaldehyde-based chemical reaction to stop the car. Team leader Bobby Hollingsworth explained that "there were a lot of challenges associated with the chemical reaction this year; our reaction releases heat, causing complexities in modeling its behavior." Despite these challenges, the Tech Chem-E-Car stopped within 6 inches of the target distance of 56 feet.

The team wishes to acknowledge the generous financial support of VT alumnus Steve Cope and ExxonMobil. The team also wished to thank the staff in the Department of Chemical Engineering for administrative and technical support.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Gary Whiting named Joseph H. Collie Professor

Dr. Gary Whiting

Gary Whiting, professor of practice of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, was recently awarded the Joseph H. Collie Professorship of Chemical Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Joseph H. Collie Endowed Chaired Professorship is awarded to a distinguished visiting professor who has extensive industrial experience and expertise in production, marketing, and sales of chemical products to introduce chemical engineering students to advanced business and marketing concepts in chemicals distribution management.

Whiting joined the Virginia Tech faculty earlier this year following his retirement from DuPont in 2015. He brought to the university significant experience in marketing, new business development, process and product development, and project engineering.

Whiting received his bachelor's degree from Lebanon Valley College, and a master and Ph.D. degrees from Virginia Tech.

Complete article

Department of Chemical Engineering

Chang Lu, Fred W. Bull professor of Chemical Engineering, is an IChemE Global Award 2016 finalist

Chang Lu

Chang Lu, Fred W. Bull professor of Chemical Engineering, is an IChemE Global Award 2016 finalist. His project, Ultrasensitive microfluids technology for profiling epigenomes, entered the final stage for the Biotechnology Award. Dr. Lu is invited to attend the IChemE Global Awards 2016 at The Palace Hotel, Manchester, UK on Thursday, 3 November where the winner will be announced. As indicated on their website,
"The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) is the global professional membership organisation for chemical engineering professionals and anyone involved with the process industries, including the emerging bioprocess sector."

The organization has "over 44,000 members in over 120 countries".

Department of Chemical Engineering

Patent Issued to Whiting

Dr. Gary Whiting (top right), Hilary Whiting (bottom right)

Professor Gary Whiting (’85 PhD-ChE) and his daughter, Hilary Whiting (’13 ME), are co-inventors of a recent U.S. Patent 9,387,756 issued July 12, 2016. The patent entitled "Vehicle Hybrid Drive Arrangement" documents inventions completed in conjunction with their designing and building a hybrid electric Chevrolet Corvette, QHP770. The patent is assigned to Dr. Whiting’s business, Quanta Products LLC, and specifically to Quanta Hybrid Performance. Hilary Whiting graduated from Virginia Tech’s mechanical engineering department in 2013, works for Kollmorgen in Radford, VA, and is currently pursuing her MBA at Arizona State University. Quanta Products will be a sponsor of Virginia Tech’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Lu named Fred Bull Professor

Chang Lu

Professor Chang Lu has been appointed the Fred W. Bull Professor of Chemical Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. The professorship was funded through alumni donations to honor the many contributions to chemical engineering education of the late Professor Fred W. Bull, the second head of the chemical engineering department.

A 2008 NSF CAREER award winner, Lu joined the Virginia Tech community in 2010 from Purdue University where he was an Associate Professor. He is internationally known for his research on microfluidic biotechnology, using fluid engineering principles and physical sciences to create enabling tools and techniques for studying and manipulating cell and molecular biology. He is working to commercialize his technologies, and the University has filed 4 patents based on the research in his group. He is currently working with two companies to develop the epigenomic profiling technology toward commercial use.

Complete article

Department of Chemical Engineering

Karim and Xin receive an Army Research Office grant to develop efficient catalysts for low temperature oxidation

Professors Ayman Karim and Hongliang Xin

Professor Karim and Professor Xin have been awarded a $390,000 grant from the Army Research Office to develop supported single atom catalysts for low temperature oxidation. Low temperature catalytic oxidation is important for many applications including, pollution abatement (e.g. oxidation of CO and unburned fuel in car exhausts), indoor air quality control (e.g. oxidation of volatile organic compounds such as HCHO, benzene), as well as for breaking down chemical warfare agents (e.g. in personal protection systems for first responders in the case of a chemical weapon attack). The PIs aim to decouple the effects of metal nuclearity and electronic properties on reaction mechanisms to identify quantitative descriptors for the catalyst activity to allow the design of more efficient catalysts. The research is based on combining experiments and theory using a novel class of precious metal single-atoms and subnanometer clusters supported on metal oxides.

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).

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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