The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering said “congratulations” to 55 bachelor’s degree and two Ph.D. recipients December 16.
A number of undergraduates, family members and friends joined in the traditional pre-commencement reception graduation morning. Each student in attendance is recognized and given the opportunity to introduce family members and share a special memory of their time in the department.
Dakota Even was honored as the recipient of the Lawrence E. Burkhart Outstanding Senior Award.
The department wishes all of its graduates well in their future endeavors.
Iowa State engineers are exploring new approaches to produce biobased chemicals and fuels through electrochemistry.
Molecules derived from biomass are typically highly oxygenated, and require chemical transformations before they can be used as fuels or for the production of chemical products. One common transformation is hydrogenation – that is the addition of hydrogen – which is conventionally done using hydrogen gas (H2), high temperatures and pressures, and expensive catalysts such as platinum or palladium. However, Wenzhen Li – Richard Seagrave Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering – and coworkers are studying an alternative process in which hydrogenations can occur at mild conditions by applying a small electrical voltage to metal electrodes.
The process is called electrocatalytic hydrogenation (ECH), and Li says it has many advantages over traditional methods. In ECH, hydrogen atoms are generated electrochemically from water, therefore avoiding the kinetic barriers and challenges of H2 activation. This means that the reactions can be performed without the need for external H2 supply, at room temperature and ambient pressure, and on inexpensive metal electrodes. Moreover, because the reactions are driven by electricity, the energy input can potentially be supplied from renewable sources such as wind and solar power.
Insight leads to tunability
A key challenge of ECH is to achieve high selectivity and electron efficiency to the target products. For example, an undesired reaction that may occur is the coupling of two substrate molecules to form dimer products. Additionally, water, which is used as the solvent, may react at the electrode to generate H2 gas, resulting in lower efficiency for ECH and higher electricity demand.
“There are big understanding gaps about the actual mechanisms occurring at the metal surface, and little is known about the relationship between reaction conditions and selectivity,” said Li. His recent research focuses on distinguishing different mechanisms occurring during the ECH of furfural, a molecule derived from sugars. For this reaction, an inexpensive and Earth-abundant metal, copper, is used as the electrode material to selectively generate furfuryl alcohol, an important industrial chemical, or 2-methyfuran, a promising biofuel. “I am very proud of our work because we acquired new understanding of electrochemical reduction mechanisms by cleverly combining various experimental tools and sophisticated techniques,” said Li.
Xiaotong Chadderdon, a Ph.D. candidate in Li’s research group, explained “the insight gained about the different surface processes allowed us to rationally choose conditions, such as the electrical voltage and electrolyte pH, in order to maximize the desired reactions.”
Their findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, in an article titled “Mechanisms of Furfural Reduction on Metal Electrodes: Distinguishing Pathways for Selective Hydrogenation of Bioderived Oxygenates” (DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b06331). Xiaotong is a co-first author of the article along with David Chadderdon, who is also a Ph.D. candidate in Li’s group. Additional co-authors are Jean-Phillipe Tessonnier, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Dr. John Matthiesen, a Ph.D. graduate of Tessonnier’s group; Dr. Jack Carraher. a former post-doctoral researcher in Tessonnier’s group; and Yang Qiu, a Ph.D. candidate in Li’s group. Li and Tessonnier groups worked closely together on the project, which was supported by funds from the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Toward a sustainable future
Professor Li has high hopes that electrochemistry will be a key part of sustainable chemical and fuel production in the future.
“The electrochemical approach is unique, because it takes advantage of both renewable carbon in the form of biomass-derived feedstocks and renewable electricity, which is expected to become more abundant and inexpensive in the future,” said Li. “Our recent findings are not only applicable to furfural, but can potentially be extended to the ECH of different biomass-derived chemicals and to other challenging electrochemical reactions.”
He also foresees opportunities in the future to replace copper with light-absorbing semiconductor electrodes – which could be used to harness energy directly from sunlight to drive electrochemical reactions.
Eighteen undergraduate students representing Iowa State University’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering took part in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting in Minneapolis.
The event brings together chemical engineering students, educators, industry professionals and more from around the nation to attend information sessions, networking events, competitions and more, in what is considered the field’s premier forum.
One of the highlights of the event is the ever-popular Chem-E-Car competition, which involves university student teams each designing and constructing a miniature car that runs a straight-line course, powered and stopped by chemical processes.
With a second-place finish in the AIChE regional student conference last spring, Iowa State’s “Lime-E-Lanturns” team qualified for the national competition held during the conference in Minneapolis, the second consecutive year Iowa State’s chapter had earned a berth in the nationals. Their final run saw the car travel to 5.34 meters from the finish line, good for a 22nd place finish. A total of 40 teams participated.
In the research poster competition, ISU’s Maxsam Donta took second place in his division.
Jamie Pryhuber, a CBE senior, said of her experience, “With the Chem E Car team, I learned how to deal with high stress situations such as forgetting a data set in our documentation package in order to pass the safety inspection – but this also proved the amazing teamwork within Chem-E-Car when we solved our issues and passed inspection. Through being a student volunteer at the conference, I had the experience of mingling with other universities, witnessing panels, and being a friendly face to anyone in attendance. The undergraduate research poster competition at the end of the conference was a great was to finish, since I had the chance to speak to interested professors and students, as well as share my excitement about biological engineering. Overall, the conference is a very rewarding experience if you are involved.”
Chem-E-Car team leader Alex Sazinski, who was attending the Annual Meeting for the first time, said overall he was very pleased with the team’s effort. He explained that in testing the team only had the car’s unusual aluminum air battery activated for short periods of time, but in the competition it was active for a longer period of time, which used up more of its resources and robbed the car of some power, resulting in a shorter-than-hoped-for run. But, he said, the car’s battery system turned heads and spurred interest. “As our team had that fairly unique power mechanism, many teams inquired how to build a similar battery without causing it to short and to generate enough power.”
Sazinski also pointed out the team was under time pressures to prepare for the Annual Meeting competition. “Due to being on the team that made it to this conference for the first time ever last year, we were not able to start construction of our car until early spring of this year. This is short in contrast with other schools who normally begin construction in the fall semester, about a year in advance. We managed to make a power mechanism that had failed for the last two years consecutively at the regional conference work, and we used it to earn second place in the regionals and move on to nationals for the second time.”
The Iowa State CBE students who participated in the AIChE Annual Meeting included Vince Anderson, Martin Asama, Derek Bruun, Maxsam Donta, Trang Hoang, Carolyn Jennrich, Jennie Larson, James Lichty, Andy Mettry, Akash Mitra, Alexandria Mullally, Josh Potvin, Jamie Pryhuber, Alex Sazenski, Kristian Shipley, Skyler Streff, Shawn Van Bruggen and Austin Weiser. Professor Stephanie Loveland was the faculty mentor.
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) alumni Meghan Watt (B.S.CBE’02) and Huiquan Wu (PH.D. CBE’01) were recognized by the department in a reception October 27.
Wu is the recipient of the College of Engineering Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering (PACE) Award and Watt has been honored with the ISU Alumni Association’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
Wu is employed as a research chemical engineer with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. The PACE Award recognizes superior technical or professional accomplishments in research, development, administration, education, and other engineering activities. It recognizes individuals eminently known for their professional competence and creativity.
Watt has spent her career working in various capacities for Dow Chemical. She currently works for Film Tec Corporation (a division of Dow) in Edina, MN. Watt is also a member of the CBE Advisory Council and is involved with campus recruiting activities for Dow at Iowa State and elsewhere.
The Outstanding Young Alumni Award recognizes ISU alumni, age 40 and under, who have excelled in their professions and provided service to their communities.
More news about their respective awards is forthcoming.
Chemical and Biological Engineering undergraduates in professor Nigel Reuel’s Computational Methods in Chemical Engineering class learned about functioning as a team under time constraints with a recent exercise that involved applying design of experiment (DoE) principles to create the optimal paper helicopter.
The debut of the activity turned teams of students loose with paper, scissors, a diagram and instructions to perform such tasks as identifying three significant design variables, creating a response surface design, collecting time of flight data, and fitting the data to a quadratic model to identify the optimal design, all in an hour time period. Helicopter models were crafted and dropped while their descents to the floor were timed by team members. Each team then offered up their best model in a face-off where the last helicopter to hit the floor was the overall winner.
Reuel said the teams of students have been working together on other assignments in the class this semester as well. Referring to the groups as “start-ups,” Reuel puts together students with similar career sector interests and allows them to function as teams in many ways both inside and outside of class to simulate real-world scenarios in team-based engineering work. The winning team on this day was the agricultural engineering-oriented group.
The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) saluted the recipients of scholarships and fellowships – and those who make them possible – in its annual Honors & Awards Banquet.
A total of 224 CBE undergraduate students have been awarded 280 department scholarships in the current academic year, and 18 graduate students are pursuing their education with the assistance of fellowships. Students who were present at the banquet were recognized in front of a large crowd that gathered in the Scheman Center, including many family members.
Student organizations, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) student chapter and the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Organization (CEGSO) also shared the spotlight in the event, with AIChE handing out its annual faculty awards.
The banquet also featured the induction of former professor and chair Terry S. King to the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Hall of Fame (detailed in a separate story).
ISU Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) heralded the return of a former professor and department chair as Dr. Terry S. King was officially inducted into the department’s Hall of Fame. King was a special guest and featured speaker as part of the annual CBE Honors & Awards Banquet October 20.
He recently retired from Ball State University, where he most recently served as interim president.
King received a B.S. in chemical engineering from Iowa State in 1975 and his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in chemical engineering in 1979. From 1979 to 1982 he worked at Exxon Chemical Company, and then began his professional academic career in 1982 at Iowa State in the Department of Chemical Engineering. By 1990 King was promoted to professor and assumed the responsibility of department chair, which he held for seven years. By the time his 15 years at Iowa State concluded, he had conducted research leading to over 150 peer reviewed publications and invited presentations. He holds three patents and received grants primarily from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. He supervised seven master’s students, 12 doctoral students, seven post-doctoral associates, and two visiting scientists.
Subsequent to his years as department chair at Iowa State, Dr. King served nine years as the Dean of the School of Engineering at Kansas State University, and was then hired by Ball State University as provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Following the sudden resignation of Ball State’s president King was asked to step into that role, and postponed retirement plans to do so.
His professional affiliations have included the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Chemical Society and North American Catalysis Society.
The parts that will come together for the new small angle X-ray scattering device to be placed in the basement of Sweeney Hall arrived October 6. Sent from France, the pieces were shipped in nine crates weighing anywhere from 300-800 pounds. When assembled the device will be 30 feet in length and will be shared by different departments. View more photos of the arrival on the CBE Facebook page and watch for further updates to come.
Chemical and biological engineering sophomores and CBE faculty members came together for the annual ChE 202 meeting in the Howe Hall atrium. Students in the “ChE Seminar” course meet with their assigned faculty advisers who assist them with setting their CBE academic plan for the remainder of their undergraduate curriculum. See more photos on the CBE Facebook page.
Professors Balaji Narasimhan and Monica Lamm of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) were recognized during the university’s 2017 Faculty and Staff Awards Ceremony.
Narasimhan, Vlasta Klima Balloun Chair, was honored for being named Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering at Iowa State University, and Lamm was recognized as a recipient of the Iowa State University Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching.
Narasimhan’s title of Anson Marston Distinguished Professor honors outstanding achievement in advancing engineering science, technology or policy having national and international impact in academics, industry, public service, government or other venues. The awardee retains the title for the remainder of his or her career at Iowa State. He joined the Iowa State CBE faculty as an assistant professor in 2001 and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2003. From 2006 to 2007, he was the director of the Institute for Combinatorial Discovery at Iowa State University. In 2007, he was promoted to professor and also appointed the associate dean of research and economic development for the College of Engineering. He earned his B.S. from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India, in 1992 and Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1996, both in chemical engineering. After a postdoctoral stint at MIT and a visiting position at Purdue, Balaji joined the chemical and biochemical engineering faculty at Rutgers University as an assistant professor in 1997. He also spent time at the University of Naples, Italy, and Cambridge University, UK, as a visiting scientist.
Among many other honors and awards are the ISU Foundation Early Excellence in Research Award in 2003; being named Vlasta Klima Balloun Professor of Engineering in 2010; being named a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011; and the Iowa State University Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research in 2015.
One of his primary research thrusts is the Nanovaccine Initiative, a consortium of 68 researchers at 21 universities, research institutes, national laboratories, companies and health care coalitions that is coordinated by Iowa State University. The Initiative is developing nanovaccines and nanotherapeutics for respiratory infections, neural disorders, tropical diseases, cancer, and veterinary diseases. Novel “pathogen-mimicking” nanovaccines the group is developing are expected to revolutionize the ability to prevent viral and bacterial diseases.
Lamm, a CBE associate professor, has been with the department since 2003. She received her B.S. from Syracuse University and her M.S. and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan.
The Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching recognizes faculty members for outstanding teaching performance over an extended period of time.
No stranger to recognition as an educator and mentor, she received the ISU Foundation Award for Early Achievement in Teaching in 2006, the College of Engineering Superior Engineering Teacher Award in 2015 and the Exemplary Peer Mentor Supervisor Award in 2016. She works in various undergraduate affairs in the department, particularly in the areas of peer mentoring and other projects with CBE’s advising staff.
Lamm is also highly involved with Team-Based Learning through the university’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. Team-Based Learning is a form of flipped-classroom small-group learning that can be used in small or large classes to provide students with a more intimate, small-class feel.
(Home page photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering professors Eric Cochran and Nigel Reuel were among those recognized during the College of Engineering Convocation, the annual academic year kickoff event for Engineering faculty and staff.
Associate professor Cochran was saluted along with Gerald and Audrey Olson Professor R. Christopher Williams of the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering for a patent received for work performed at Iowa State’s Bio-Polymer Processing Facility. Cochran and Williams spearheaded the development of the $5.3 million plant, which opened in the university’s BioCentury Farm in 2015 and is a joint operation between the two departments. The patent is for Thermoplastic elastomers via reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization of triglycerides.
Assistant professor Reuel was honored for being named a Black & Veatch Building a World of Difference Faculty Fellow in Engineering. He was noted for his research work in the areas of nano materials, sensors, water, energy and wireless communication.
A record number of graduate students are being welcomed by Iowa State’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering this fall, with 85 individuals from more than a dozen countries pursuing advanced degrees in chemical engineering. Twenty of the students are new to Iowa State this semester.
Both new and returning graduate students gathered recently for the kickoff Graduate Seminar Series event, where all are introduced, along with department faculty and staff, and the schedule for the coming year’s Graduate Seminar Series, which features researchers from around the nation, is announced.
“We are thrilled to reach this new record number of graduate students enrolling in our programs,” said Reginald R. Baxter Endowed Department Chair Andy Hillier. “Increasing graduate student enrollment is a priority set by the Department and the College of Engineering, so we are delighted to be able reach this milestone, and plan to continue with further growth.”
“The rising number of applicants to our graduate program shows that Iowa State is being recognized as a major force in the realm of chemical engineering higher education,” remarked Dr. Eric Cochran, the department’s Director of Graduate Education.
The department also hosts 20 post-doctoral researchers and visiting scientists and two interdisciplinary graduate students.
Chemical Engineering graduate students at Iowa State utilize research facilities in both Sweeney Hall and in the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC). In calendar year 2016 the department saw $9.35 million in total research funding. The department currently has an average of nearly 4 graduate students per faculty member with an average of two years to graduation for master’s degree candidates and 4.5 years to graduation for those in the Ph.D. program.
The record crop of graduate students come to Iowa State from the United States, and also from countries that include Bangladesh, China, Germany, India, Iran, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Taiwan.
Researchers and educators from noted institutions around the nation will once again visit Iowa State University to share their work as guests of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering’s Graduate Seminar Series. The series schedule has been released and is posted on the department’s web site. It will begin with the traditional introductory seminar for CBE grad students August 24 and their safety seminar September 7, with the first guest presenter set for September 14.
Part of the required curriculum for ISU chemical engineering graduate students, the regularly scheduled seminars expose the students to a wide variety of work currently underway in chemical engineering and related fields. The seminars are also open to all Iowa State University faculty members, staff, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and scientists. They are held Thursdays at 11 a.m. throughout the fall and spring semesters in 171 Durham unless otherwise noted.
Three guest presenters from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will join faculty members from such schools as Cornell University, Rice University, University of Oklahoma, The Ohio State University, Georgia Tech, University of Delaware, The University of Chicago and Iowa State, in addition to researchers from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Wide-ranging topics to be covered include transport in semiconductor nanomaterials; BioArtificial hydrogels in regenerative medicine; yeasts for producing polymer, pharmaceutical and cosmetic materials; and fuel cells for zero-emission cars, with additional presenters and topics to be announced soon.
It was a case of thinking outside the box – with the “box” being the conventional classroom.
CBE professor Stephanie Loveland decided to turn the August 21 solar eclipse into a living laboratory of data collection for her Ch E 325 (CH E Laboratory I) class. And so, with notepads, clipboards, digital thermometers and eclipse-viewing glasses in hand, she and her Chemical and Biological Engineering undergrads spent their first class period of the semester observing the solar eclipse, and recording data about the event. “Rather than the usual first-day syllabus, I decided we’d head outside to take data about the eclipse and practice writing a report about it during the next class period – instead of just working with the usual random data,” said Loveland.
Despite the heavy cloud cover that got in the way of any unobstructed eclipse viewing, the sun was revealed a couple of brief times during the class observation, with one of the times being just four minutes before the maximum of the eclipse.
In fact, the cloud cover will be used as an example of “confounding data” when it is analyzed by the students. Using digital thermometers, they took note of the temperature drop that occurred during the eclipse, coming up with a decline of about seven degrees. But, as Loveland will ask, how much effect did the clouds have on the temperature drop, as opposed to simply the eclipse alone?
Though the clouds nearly won the day, Loveland is hopeful the students enjoyed a break from the norm, and enjoyed the chance to shine a different light on the subject of data collection.