Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Chemical and Petroleum Engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering was established in 1910, making it the first department for petroleum engineering in the world. Today, our department has over 40 expert faculty (tenure/tenure-stream/joint/adjunct), a host of dedicated staff, more than 20 state-of-the-art laboratories and learning centers, and education programs that enrich with strong fundamentals and hands-on experience.

Chemical engineering is concerned with processes in which matter and energy undergo change. The range of concerns is so broad that the chemical engineering graduate is prepared for a variety of interesting and challenging employment opportunities.

Chemical engineers with strong background in sciences are found in management, design, operations, and research. Chemical engineers are employed in almost all industries, including food, polymers, chemicals, pharmaceutical, petroleum, medical, materials, and electronics. Since solutions to energy, environmental, and food problems must surely involve chemical changes, there will be continued demands for chemical engineers in the future.

Apr
18
2016

Ten current and former Pitt engineering students awarded 2016 National Science Foundation Fellowships

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH—Four University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering students and six alumni were awarded the 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Nine engineering students and three alumni received honorable mention. Overall, the recipients were among the ten Pitt students and eight alumni awarded fellowships, and 14 Pitt students and 10 alumni who received honorable mentions. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees. The fellowship program has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The support accorded NSF Graduate Research Fellows nurtures their ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Current Pitt students who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship include: seniors Emily June Crabb (physics and astronomy, computer engineering) and Trent Maxwell Dillon (civil engineering); and graduate students Donald Edward Kline (electrical engineering) and Michael Gilbert Taylor (chemical engineering). Alumni include Kenechi Aretha Agbim (mechanical engineering, Georgia Tech), Emmeline Blanchard (bioengineering, Georgia Tech), Jann Albert Grovogui (materials science engineering, Northwestern University), Lauren Ann Hapach (bioengineering, Cornell University), David William Palm (chemical engineering, Stanford University), and Christopher James Siviy (mechanical engineering). Current students who received an honorable mention are seniors Christian Gerald Bottenfield (electrical engineering), Stephanie Paolo Cortes (electrical engineering), Luke Drnach (computer engineering), Alexander Danels Josowitz (bioengineering) and Saundria Michelle Moed (bioengineering); and graduate students Patrick Andrew Cody (bioengineering), Daniel Ward Long (bioengineering), and Stephanie Anne Wiltman (bioengineering). Alumni include Olivia Annette Creasy (bioengineering, University of California-San Francisco), Kevin Andrew Day (bioengineering, Johns Hopkins University), and Andrew Head (computer engineering, University of California-Berkeley), Visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do for a full list of fellows and honorable mentions and to learn more about the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. ###
Joe Miksch, News Director, University Communications
Apr
14
2016

Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Kutay Sezginel Wins $5,000 Prize from InnoCentive

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 14, 2016) … Kutay Sezginel, a first-year PhD candidate studying chemical and petroleum engineering at the Swanson School, won a $5,000 prize for his innovative idea for solving a “Theoretical Challenge” posed by InnoCentive, a crowdsourcing platform for addressing problems in engineering. The InnoCentive challenge titled “Chemical Sorbents for Fixed Bed Mercury (Hg 0) Control” called on the scientific community to find a better method of removing elemental mercury from flue gas in coal fired power plants. In his proposal, Sezginel outlined a method of using an innovative porous material that is specifically tailored to purify the flue gas and withstand the harsh conditions caused by burning coal. “You have to find the right material to remove the mercury efficiently,” said Sezginel, “and my proposal described an effective substance for the purification process related to my research of hypothetical materials. In this case, the metal-organic framework I suggested using isn’t really a new on its own, but no one had suggested using it for this purpose before.” Sezginel received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical and biological engineering from Koç University in Istanbul. His research involves discovering hypothetical materials by means of crystal engineering and algorithmic molecular self-assembly. He focuses on designing atomically precise nanostructures in many different sizes and shapes which can be used as precursors for molecular machines or as storage vessels, to contain and deliver drugs, or as traps, to capture unwanted pollutants (or even viruses). He joined the WilmerLab at Pitt in September 2015 under the direction of Christopher Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering. Members of the WilmerLab work to design hypothetical materials to help address energy and environmental challenges. They are interested in creating sophisticated nanostructures, potentially as complex and useful as molecular machines found in nature. Their strategy is to computationally design and study new materials and then work with experimental collaborators to synthesize those materials in the lab. “I encouraged my lab to submit a proposal. Kutay took the lead and won,” said Wilmer. “There were almost 200 other submissions from scientists all around the world—not limited to students. Now that the ice has been broken, I think more Pitt students should send in their good ideas to InnoCentive.” ### Pictured above: Kutay (left) and Dr. Wilmer
Matt Cichowicz
Apr
4
2016

Three Pitt Students - Two from Chemical and Petroleum Engineering - Awarded 2016 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH—Three University of Pittsburgh students have been awarded 2016 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships. The three Pitt juniors—Patrick A. Asinger,Natalie R. Dall, and Charles J. Hansen—were honored for their research endeavors in the areas of chemical engineering and molecular biology. Pitt junior Ethan A. Garcia-Baker received a 2016 Goldwater honorable mention designation. The Goldwater Scholarship, established in 1986 by the U.S. Congress and named for then-Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, supports outstanding students who are pursuing careers in the fields of engineering, mathematics, and the natural sciences. The award—granted in either a student’s sophomore or junior year—assists in covering the costs of books, room and board, and tuition for each student’s remaining period of study. Institutions can nominate up to four students per year for the Goldwater Scholarship. This is the fourth consecutive year that all of Pitt’s nominees have received either the scholarship or an honorable mention designation. Pitt students have now won a total of 47 Goldwater Scholarships since 1996. “The University of Pittsburgh is immensely proud of our four 2016 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship nominees as well as Pitt’s continued success in this prestigious, highly competitive awards competition. Our track record is a testament to the high quality of our students as well as the strength of our institution,” said University Honors College Dean Edward M. Stricker. “Our Goldwater Scholars will use their scholarships to further hone their skills as researchers in the chemical engineering and molecular biology fields. They all have admirable aspirations to use those skills for the betterment of society, and we applaud and support their noble pursuits.” Pitt’s 2016 Goldwater Scholarship honorees study within the University’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Swanson School of Engineering. Biographical information for Pitt’s four Goldwater honorees follows: A native of Bradford, Pa., Patrick A. Asinger is majoring in chemical engineering within the Swanson School. Upon his anticipated graduation from Pitt in the spring of 2017, Asinger plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemical engineering. Asinger plans to focus his professional research in the areas of improved renewable energy conversion and storage. Bridging the gap between laboratory experimentation and real-world application, he is working to be an influential figure in the development of catalyst systems that can efficiently convert carbon dioxide into fuel sources on a large scale. Asinger’s undergraduate research pursuits have been performed in the laboratory of Swanson School professor Götz Veser. This summer, he will be conducting research through the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. In addition to his research, Asinger has been an organic chemistry teaching assistant, an outreach coordinator for the American Chemical Society, and a member of Engineers for a Sustainable World and the Chemical Engineering Honor Society. His previous honors and distinctions include Pitt’s University Scholarship, the most honorable design designation at the 2014 Pitt Student Design Expo, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) RISE Scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service. Natalie R. Dall is Pitt’s incoming Student Government Board president. A native of Loveland, Ohio, she is majoring in molecular biology within the Dietrich School. Upon her anticipated graduation from Pitt in the spring of 2017, Dall plans to pursue a doctoral degree in biology. Dall plans to focus her professional research in the fields of evolutionary and developmental biology. Her endeavors will explore human developmental disorders—such as neural tube closure and spina bifida—from a molecular point of view. Dall hopes to establish her own laboratory at a major research institution, where she will work to identify the causative agents behind developmental disorders with the intent of developing innovative treatment methods. As an undergraduate, Dall has been performing research in the lab of Pitt biological sciences professor Mark Rebeiz for the past two years. Her work in the Rebeiz lab has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Developmental Cell. During her undergraduate career, Dall has been an active member of numerous campus organizations, including the Student Government Board and the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa. Her previous honors and distinctions include the Norman H. Horowitz Fellowship and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Mentor/Mentee Fellowship. A native of Mechanicsburg, Pa., Charles J. Hansen is majoring in chemical engineering within the Swanson School. Upon his anticipated graduation from Pitt in the spring of 2017, Hansen plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemical engineering. Hansen plans to focus his professional research pursuits towards clean energy production and energy storage. He looks forward to collaborating with scientists and engineers from different technical and international backgrounds in order to make breakthroughs in the energy field. During his undergraduate career, Hansen has been heavily involved in a range of undergraduate research endeavors, working closely with Swanson School professors Daniel Cole and Götz Veser. The findings of his work have been published in Ingenium, the publication of undergraduate research within the Swanson School. This summer, Hansen will continue his energy research through the Amgen Scholars Program at the California Institute of Technology. His other awards and distinctions include the Swanson School’s John W. Tierney Scholarship and Edward B. Stuart and Geraldine J. Stuart Memorial Scholarship. He was an active member of such notable organizations as the American Nuclear Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Hansen also served as a peer advisor on Pitt’s Freshman Engineering Leadership Team. Goldwater honorable mention designee Ethan A. Garcia-Baker is majoring in neuroscience as well as history and philosophy of science within the Dietrich School. Upon his anticipated graduation from Pitt in the spring of 2017, he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in computational biology and genomics. Garcia-Baker plans to focus his career in the area of human genomics technology, developing advanced tools for diagnosing psychiatric disorders and exploring new approaches for diagnosing mental disorders. He also will make the mentorship and training of doctoral students working in the area of precision medicine a priority throughout his career. Pitt’s four 2016 Goldwater Scholarship applicants were nominated with assistance from Pitt’s University Honors College, which advises Pitt undergraduate students and alumni who are interested in pursuing national and international awards. ###
Anthony M. Moore, University of Pittsburgh News Services
Mar
29
2016

Pittsburgh Business Times recognizes four Swanson School faculty with 2016 Energy Leadership Awards

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (March 29, 2016) ... Four faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering were selected as winners of the 2016 Energy Leadership Awards, presented by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The program honors individuals who have paved the way for the vibrant growth of the Pittsburgh region's energy sector and recognizes outstanding performance in the western Pennsylvania energy industry, from academia and industry to policy and research. The recipients will be recognized at the Business Times' Energy Gala, Thursday, May 26 at the Southpointe Hilton Garden Inn. The recipients include: Robert Enick, PhD, NETL RUA Faculty Fellow, Bayer Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Joel Haight, PhD, P.E., Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of the Safety Engineering Program David Sanchez, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Co-Director of the Pitt/RMU Energy Inventor Labs Götz Veser, PhD, Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Associate Director of the Center for Energy ###

Mar
28
2016

Study of enzymatic chemical reactions by Pitt and Penn State researchers may indicate how the first cells formed colonies

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (March 28, 2016) … A novel investigation of how enzymatic reactions can direct the motion and organization of microcapsules may point toward a new theory of how protocells – the earliest biological cells – could have organized into colonies and thus, could have ultimately formed larger, differentiated structures. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, along with collaborators at Penn State University’s Chemistry Department, found that very simple physical and chemical processes that do not rely on complex biological machinery guided the self-assembly of the microcapsules, which served as models for the protocells. Namely, the researchers isolated a dynamic cascade of events that lead the microcapsules to organize into a well-defined colony. Anna C. Balazs, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt with post-doctoral associates Oleg E. Shklyaev and Henry Shum developed the computational modeling based upon previous experiments conducted by Ayusman Sen, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Penn State University. “ Harnessing surface-bound enzymatic reactions to organize microcapsules in solution” was published last week in the AAAS journal Science Advances(DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501835). The researchers modeled microcapsules between 10-50 micrometers in diameter, the typical size of biological cells. In this study, the microcapsules consisted of an outer shell and a fluid-filled core containing hydrogen peroxide, which gradually leaked through the shell into the surrounding fluid. The hydrogen peroxide acted as a chemical reagent for a patch of enzymes on the surface under the microcapsules. The reaction occurring at the enzymes released heat and lowered the fluid density, driving the convection of the surrounding fluid. This fluid flow carried the immersed capsules and brought them together above the enzyme-coated surface.  After the reagent was consumed, the fluid flow ceased and the capsules remained localized above the patch of enzymes. Dr. Balazs noted that “this study is relatively unique because Ayusman was the first to realize that simple enzymatic reactions could transduce chemical energy into fluid motion in this way and we have now used this mechanism to control the assembly of microcapsules into colonies.” “The beautiful simplicity of the underlying principles means that this is a plausible mechanism by which the earliest biological cells, which were simply a protective shell enclosing some fluid and simple components, assembled into colonies.” Dr. Sen explained. “Neither a protocell nor a microcapsule possesses complex biological machinery, just a porous container through which molecules diffuse in and out. This could be how protocells communicated and formed the groups that would evolve into multicellular organisms.” Dr. Balazs and her team were able to regulate the assembly of the microcapsules by patterning the distribution of enzymes on a bottom wall, creating different types of configurations – in this instance, circular, square and crankshaft shapes. The size and number of the capsules determined the amount of fuel available to regulate the velocities. This mechanism indicates a means of controlling where and how the capsules self-organize without external stimuli. “The density variation created by the secretion of a reagent and its reaction at the enzymes on the bottom wall caused the fluid flow, which resulted in the assembly of the microcapsules into colonies,” Dr. Shklyaev added. “No magnetic or electric fields are needed to guide the microcapsules. We only need gravity, which is present everywhere on Earth. This approach can apply both to biological applications, as well as cargo delivery into particular areas of a microchannel.” According to Dr. Balazs, this research provides a novel approach for manipulation in small fluidic devices. Utilization of different catalysts would allow different flow patterns to develop depending on the chemicals present in the fluid or microcapsules. This could potentially lead to autonomous sorting of cells or assembly of large, predesigned structures from smaller building blocks. ### Animations above and below: Chemically-generated convection provides means of organizing protocells into colonies and microcapsules on surfaces.
Paul Kovach

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