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
25
2017

The ‘Can’-Do Spirit

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH, PA (April 25, 2017) … A team of students from the University of Pittsburgh won $10,000 and second place at Princeton University’s TigerLaunch Finals competition for entrepreneurship. The team founded the company Aeronics, which designs and develops improved methods of storing oxygen in lightweight, low-pressure tanks.One of Aeronics’ innovations, Medipod, is about the size of a soda can and contains a porous lining to increase internal surface area. Because gases concentrate on surfaces, Medipod can store more oxygen while decreasing the tanks internal pressure. The technology is particularly appealing for people who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and currently lug around large oxygen tanks on a daily basis.The Aeronics team comprises Pitt students Alec Kaija, Blake Dube and Mark Spitz. Christopher Wilmer, assistant professor in the Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, is an adviser to the team. Aeronics qualified for participation in the TigerLaunch national competition after presenting at the TigerLaunch X NYC competition at New York University. A total of 18 teams, selected from three regional competitions, received invitations to the finals.Last December, Aeronics took first place at Pitt Blast Furnace’s Demo Day. Like TigerLaunch, Demo Day provides student startups the opportunity to pitch their ideas and win cash prizes. The Aeronics team also won several other competitions supported by the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute including the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, the Michael G. Wells Competition and the Kuzneski Innovation Cup.Dube, CEO of Aeronics, worked with Dr. Wilmer in the Wilmer Lab investigating theoretical limits of oxygen storage in porous materials while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Spitz, who serves as COO, is majoring in exercise science in the School of Education. Both students will graduate this May and begin working full-time at Aeronics. Kaija, currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, will continue to develop Aeronics technology while completing his studies. ### Image above (from left to right): Spitz, Dube and Kaija at the TigerLaunch Finals.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
3
2017

ChemE Professor Christopher Wilmer Joins Foresight Institute’s Inaugural Class of Fellows

Chemical & Petroleum

PALO ALTO, CA (April 3, 2017) … The Foresight Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on promoting future technologies, has announced that Christopher Wilmer will be part of its inaugural class of fellows. The 10 inductees are all working on technologies with massive potential for the future, including space technology, human longevity and the interface between human minds and computers.The Foresight Institute selected Dr. Wilmer, assistant professor chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, for his work with nanostructures called “molecular machines.” As principal investigator of the Hypothetical Materials Lab at Pitt, Dr. Wilmer leads his team in the design of complex, hypothetical molecular machines capable of solving problems in fields such as energy and the environment.The Foresight Fellowship lasts for one year and provides support in the form of personal attention, exposure to new opportunities and mentorship from leaders in related fields. The Foresight Institute also invites fellows to attend special events to further connect with mentors and other fellows.“There’s nothing new in the world… is an adage that has met its match,” said Steve Burgess, president of Foresight Institute. “The Foresight Fellows are up to the challenge and we look forward to what they bring forth. The Foresight Fellowship Program is itself new, and we’re excited about working with this talented group and the prospects they bring to possible technological breakthrough for a better world for everyone.”About the Foresight InstituteSince 1993, Foresight Institute has been rewarding those who are making strides in the field of nanotechnology with the Feynman Prize. In 2016, a former Feynman Prize winner, Sir James Fraser Stoddart, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work with molecular machines. Foresight Institute recognizes that providing a strong network and knowledge base for new fellows will accelerate their missions and reflect Foresight’s goals to further support those making important strides in key fields. The early identification and support of big research ideas is where Foresight Institute creates the most impact.About Dr. WilmerDr. Wilmer’s research focuses on the use of large-scale molecular simulations to help find promising materials for energy and environmental applications. He earned his bachelor’s degree in applied science from the University of Toronto’s Engineering Science—Nanoengineering program, and his PhD in Chemical Engineering at Northwestern under the mentorship of Prof. Randall Q. Snurr. While at Northwestern he took an interest in developing new technologies through entrepreneurship and co-founded NuMat Technologies, which designs porous materials that could be used to make better natural gas fuel tanks for vehicles. In 2012 the company won the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, while Dr. Wilmer was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30 in Energy.” He has authored more than 20 publications and holds more than 500 article citations. For more information visit Dr. Wilmer’s website at www.wilmerlab.com. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
3
2017

MCSI Seed Grants Fund New Round of Sustainability Research

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Industrial, MEMS

PITTSBURGH, PA (April 3, 2017) … The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) has announced the recipients of 2017-2018 MCSI seed grant funding. The annual seed grant program engages a core team of researchers who are passionate about sustainability. Seed grants support graduate student and post-doctoral fellows on one-year research projects. The University of Pittsburgh projects and faculty members to receive funding include:• “Protein lithograph: a sustainable technology for sub-5-nm nanomanufacturing.” Mostafa Bedewy, Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial Engineering.• “High efficiency refrigeration and cooling through additive manufactured magnetocaloric devices.” Markus Chmielus, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.• “Toward machine learning blueprints for greener chelants.” John Keith, Assistant Professor, Inaugural Richard King Mellon Faculty Fellow in Energy, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.• “H2P: HydroPonics to Pyrolysis: An enclosed system for the phytoremediation and destruction of perfectly persistent emerging contaminants in our water.” Carla Ng, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; David Sanchez, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.MCSI developed the research seed grant program to provide faculty with funding support to allow students to participate in high-quality research, teaching, outreach and creative endeavors. The goals of the grants are: (1) seed funding to develop ideas to the point where external funding can be obtained; (2) awards to support scholarship in areas where external funding is extremely limited; (3) resources to introduce curricular innovations into the classroom; or (4) tools or techniques to encourage community outreach and education. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
27
2017

Pitt ChemE Students Turn Class Project into $5,000 InnoCentive Award

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH, PA (March 27, 2017) … InnoCentive, a crowdsourcing platform for problem-solving and innovation, awarded $5,000 to a team of students from the University of Pittsburgh for designing a solution for shipping polymers that expand too much when they’re cold and become too sticky when they’re hot. The students solved the problem for a chemical engineering class at the Swanson School and submitted their proposal to the InnoCentive Challenge Center after receiving an “A” on the assignment.Hydrogenated styrene diene block copolymer is used to make cosmetics and tough synthetic rubbers. An anonymous company submitted a challenge to the crowdsourcing website InnoCentive to see if anyone could find a way to improve its method of baling the polymers for shipment. The company had been using heat to compress the polymers and save space on the trucks; however, the heat also caused the polymer to stick to the surface of the conveyor system that led to the baler. The four Pitt students devised a solution that involved adding a vertical conveyor to the baling process. This particular type of spiral-shaped conveyor, commonly used in the food industry, looks like a giant metal spring. It can simultaneously heat the polymer while transporting it to the entrance of a top-loading baler. It also moves the polymer with vibration, preventing any chance of the compressed rubber sticking to the surface.“When we came up with this solution, we knew it was right,” said Devin Ulam, an undergraduate student and member of the Pitt team. “The vertical conveyor only takes up a little bit of space, and the polymer crumb is heated at the last moment before it enters the baler, so there is no risk of clogging.”The other team members were Travis La Fleur, Stephen Provencher and Timothy Shearer. All four students are majoring in chemical engineering at Pitt and enrolled in “Taking Products to Market – Next Step in Chemical Product Design” (ChE314) in the fall of 2016.The course emphasizes entrepreneurial approaches to chemical engineering product development. Christopher Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt, taught the course last fall and directed the Pitt team to the InnoCentive challenge to gain experience with real-world problem solving.“We are teaching engineers in this course to consider the values and needs of the customer throughout the design process,” said Wilmer. “These students did an excellent job of finding a solution that didn’t make any drastic changes to the company’s product or processes. It will be very easy to implement their solution, and I think that is why they deserved to win the award.” InnoCentive is a network of more than 375,000 problem solvers. The platform connects corporations, government organizations and nonprofit companies with experts in the fields of computer science, math, chemistry, life sciences, physical sciences and business. When an organization submits a “challenge problem” to InnoCentive, the competition is open to the InnoCentive community. The organization that submitted the challenge ultimately determines the winning solution. ### Image Above: (from left to right) Devin Ulam, Timothy Shearer, Travis La Fleur and Stephen Provencher.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
22
2017

The Swanson School Presents Alumna Donna Blackmond with 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award for Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2017) … Collectively they are professors, researchers and authors; inventors, builders and producers; business leaders, entrepreneurs and industry pioneers. The 53rd annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet brought together honorees from each of the Swanson School of Engineering’s six departments and one overall honoree to represent the entire school. The banquet took place at the University of Pittsburgh's Alumni Hall, and Gerald D. Holder, US Steel Dean of Engineering, presented the awards.This year’s recipient for the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering was Donna G. Blackmond, PhD, BSCHE ’80, MSCHE ’81, Professor of Chemistry, Scripps Research Institute.“Many of us here tonight, myself included, remember Donna as an outstanding student and researcher, and have followed her many accomplishments while making a major impact with her research,” said Dean Holder. “She is a pioneer of Reaction Progress Kinetic Analysis, and her research into prebiotic chemistry and asymmetric catalytic reactions is recognized worldwide.”About Donna BlackmondDonna G. Blackmond received BS and MS degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1980 and 1981, respectively. She received a PhD degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1984. Blackmond started her career as an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh in 1984 and was promoted to associate professor in 1989. She has held professorships in chemical engineering and in organic, physical, and technical chemistry in the US, Germany and the UK, and she has worked in the pharmaceutical industry as an associate director at Merck & Co., Inc. In 2010 she moved from a joint research chair in chemistry and chemical engineering at Imperial College London to her present position as professor of chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Blackmond’s research focuses on kinetic, mechanistic and reaction engineering studies of organic reactions for pharmaceutical applications, including asymmetric catalysis. She has been invited to give her short course on Kinetics of Organic Catalytic Reactions in academia (including Harvard, Berkeley, Zürich, Nagoya) and at major pharmaceutical companies around the world. Blackmond also carries out fundamental studies probing the origin of the single chirality of biological molecules. She was invited by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to speak at a Nobel Workshop “On the Origin of Life” in Stockholm (2006). In 2012 she was named a Simons Investigator in the Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life. ### Photo Above: Dean Holder (left) with Donna Blackmond and ChemE Department Chair Steven Little.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

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