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.


Geosciences-Inspired Engineering

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (January 19, 2017) … The Mackenzie Dike Swarm, an ancient geological feature covering an area more than 300 miles wide and 1,900 miles long beneath Canada from the Arctic to the Great Lakes, is the largest dike swarm on Earth. Formed more than one billion years ago, the swarm’s geology discloses insights into major magmatic events and continental breakup. The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today’s modern world. To explore how naturally-occurring dike swarms can lead to improved methods of oil and gas reservoir stimulation, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences awarded a $310,000 award to Andrew Bunger, assistant professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Dike swarms are the result of molten rock (magma) rising from depth and then driving cracks through the Earth’s crust. Dike swarms exhibit a self-organizing behavior that allows hundreds of individual dikes to fan out across large distances. Although petroleum engineers desire to achieve the same effect when creating hydraulic fractures for stimulation of oil and gas production, the industrial hydraulic fractures appear far more likely to localize to only one or two dominant strands. This localization leaves 30-40 percent of most reservoirs in an unproductive state, representing an inefficient use of resources and leading to unnecessary intensity of oil and gas development. In the study, “Self-Organization Mechanisms within Magma-Driven Dyke and Hydraulic Fracture Swarms,” Bunger will take a novel approach to understanding the mechanics of fluid-driven cracks, which he refers to as “geosciences-inspired engineering.” Like the growing field of biologically-inspired engineering, Bunger will be looking to processes in the natural world to better understand the constructed or engineered world. “I would like to challenge myself and the geoscience community to look at naturally occurring morphologies with the eye of an engineer,” says Bunger. “The first part of the study will involve developing a mechanical model to explain the behavior of the dike swarms. We are borrowing from a theoretical framework developed in biology called ‘swarm theory,’ which explains the self-organizing behavior of groups of animals.” Swarm theory, or swarm intelligence, refers to naturally and artificially occurring complex systems with no centralized control structure. The individual agents in the system exhibit simple or even random behavior, but collectively the group achieves emergent, or “intelligent,” behavior. “One of the hallmarks of self-organizing behavior within swarms was recognized by swarm theory’s earliest proponents, who were actually motivated by developing algorithms to simulate flocks and herds in computer animation,” Bunger explains. “They proposed that all swarming behavior can be tied to the presence of three basic forces. One of these leads to alignment of the members with each other – it is what makes a flocking bird fly in the same direction as its neighbors. A second force is associated with repulsion – it keeps birds within a flock from running into each other and knocking each other out of the air. The third force is attraction – an often instinctive desire of certain animals to be near other animals of their own species, typically for protection from predators.” “If you look at dike swarms,” Bunger continues, “They have been called ‘swarms’ for decades, but there has never been an effort to identify the mechanical origins of the three forces that are known to be present any place that swarming morphology is observed. When we view dikes in this way, we see that the alignment and repulsive forces have been recognized for years, although never placed in the broader context of their role in swarming. However, the origin of the attractive force is problematic. Why do all these dikes have any mechanical impetus to grow near each other? Because the mechanical origin of the attractive force has not been known, it is unclear why natural fluid-driven cracks – dikes – tend to exhibit swarming behavior while such an outcome is far less commonly observed in man-made fluid-driven cracks associated with hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas reservoirs.” “We will use computational models and analogue experiments, which use artificial materials to simulate the Earth’s processes, to develop a new theory of fluid-driven crack swarms,” says Bunger. “Through this advance, we would like to improve the stimulation methods used for oil and gas production. This will be a win-win for both industry and our society that depends upon the energy resources they produce. Industry will benefit from more efficient methods, and society will benefit from lower energy costs and a decreased environmental footprint associated with resource extraction.” In addition to a deeper understanding of the geological process that occur throughout Earth’s history, Bunger also sees his research impacting planetary research of Mars and Venus. Both rocky planets contain a large number of giant dike swarms. Understanding how the geometry of dike swarms relates to the conditions in the Earth’s crust at the time of emplacement will lead to a new method for ascertaining the little-known geological structure and history of Mars and Venus though analysis of the geometry of their many giant dike swarms. ### Photo above: Dr. Bunger in his Benedum Hall lab with the newly-installed compression frame he uses to simulate the high-stress environment deep inside the Earth.
Author: Matthew Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards four novel biomedical devices with $77,500 total Round-2 2016 Pilot Funding

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (January 10, 2017) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $77,500 to four research groups through its 2016 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new technology for treatment of diabetes, a medical device for emergency intubation, an innovative method for bone regeneration, and a novel approach for implementing vascular bypass grafts. CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE), supports applied technology projects in the early stages of development with “kickstart” funding toward the goal of transitioning the research to clinical adoption. CMI leadership evaluates proposals based on scientific merit, technical and clinical relevance, potential health care impact and significance, experience of the investigators, and potential in obtaining further financial investment to translate the particular solution to healthcare. “This is our fifth year of pilot funding, and our leadership team could not be more excited with the breadth and depth of this round’s awardees,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “This early-stage interdisciplinary research helps to develop highly specific biomedical technologies through a proven strategy of linking UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty.” AWARD 1: Intrapancreatic Lipid Nanoparticles to Treat DiabetesAward for further development and testing of use of lipid nanoparticle technology for the induction of α-to-β-cell transdifferentiation to treat diabetes. George Gittes, MDDepartment of Surgery University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Kathryn Whitehead, PhDDepartment of Chemical Engineering Carnegie Mellon University (Secondary appointment at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine) AWARD 2: The Esophocclude - Medical Device for temporary occlusion of the esophagus in patients requiring emergent intubationContinuation award for further refinement of the Esophocclude Medical Device using human cadaver testing to simulate emergency intubation.Philip Carullo, MDResident, PGY-1 Department of Anesthesiology University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Youngjae Chun, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Industrial Engineering Department of Bioengineering (Secondary) University of Pittsburgh AWARD 3: RegenMatrix - Collagen-mimetic Bioactive Hydrogels for Bone RegenerationContinuation award for fully automating the hydrogel fabrication process, for animal studies and for fine-tuning related innovations. Shilpa Sant, PhDAssistant Professor Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Department of Bioengineering University of Pittsburgh Akhil Patel, MS Graduate Student Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences University of Pittsburgh Yadong Wang, PhD Professor Department of Bioengineering University of Pittsburgh Sachin Velankar, PhDAssociate Professor Department of Chemical Engineering University of Pittsburgh Charles Sfeir, DDS, PhD Associate Professor Department of Oral Biology University of Pittsburgh AWARD 4: TopoGraft 2.0 - Anti-platelet surfaces for bypass grafts and artificial hearts using topo-graphic surface actuationContinuation award for in-vivo validating of results and developing a new approach for topographic actuation of the inner lumen of synthetic bypass grafts. Sachin Velankar, PhD Department of Chemical Engineering University of Pittsburgh Luka Pocivavsak, MD, PhD Department of Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Edith Tzeng, MD Department of Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Robert Kormos, MD Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery University of Pittsburgh Medical Center About the Center for Medical Innovation The Center for Medical Innovation at the Swanson School of Engineering is a collaboration among the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Innovation Institute, and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). CMI was established in 2011 to promote the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; to educate the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and to facilitate the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services. Over 50 early-stage projects have been supported by CMI with a total investment of over $900,000 since inception. ###
Author: Yash P. Mokashi, Fellow, Center for Medical Innovation

University of Pittsburgh to play a lead role in new Department of Energy national institute focused on clean energy research

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (December 20, 2016) … In collaboration with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will be part of a new institute that will leverage a total $70 million contribution by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of its new network of Manufacturing USA Institutes. The Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute, led by AIChE, is the 10th and newest member of this network, which received a five-year commitment from DOE and from private partners and energy industries. The goal is to increase domestic productivity and efficiency of various forms of energy by 20 percent over the next five years through improved manufacturing processes. The RAPID proposal elected the University of Pittsburgh to serve as one of eight lead institutions in the RAPID organizational structure. The University is proposed to be responsible for strategic roadmapping and oversight on all research activity in RAPID’s Natural Gas Upgrading Application Focus Area. Pitt will guide and coordinate member efforts from the portion of 75 industrial partners, 34 academic institutions, seven national laboratories, two other government laboratories, and seven non-governmental organizations in the RAPID community who are targeting Natural Gas Research. The University will provide support through its multiple labs and centers dedicated to energy, process intensification, advanced manufacturing, simulation modeling, and leverage Swanson School faculty expertise in natural gas and unconventional fuels research. Heading up the Pitt team will be the Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering under the direction of Michael Matuszewski, instructor and Director of External Relationships for Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and Götz Veser, professor and Associate Director of Pitt’s Center for Energy. “Creation of the RAPID Manufacturing Institute comes at a critical time as federal, university and industrial research are transforming how the U.S. improves its domestic energy production and use,” noted Mark Redfern, vice provost for research. “The Swanson School has more than a century of experience in energy research – and also established the first petroleum engineering program in the world – and so we are proud to partner with DOE and AIChE on this national challenge.” According to Dr. Veser, the Pitt team will serve as the first tier of communication with the RAPID leadership in evaluating and recommending selection of natural gas-related projects. “Our focus is to identify more efficient and cost-effective methods to convert natural gas into clean energy and other useful products through advance manufacturing,” Dr. Veser said. “Access to Marcellus and Utica shale deposits has created new opportunities to utilize our natural resources in pursuit of greater independence, and the University of Pittsburgh is geographically located and technically positioned perfectly to lead the efforts towards clean and efficient utilization of these resources.” In addition, the Pitt team said that its current industry partnerships help to provide a stronger connection to identifying potential end-uses, complement existing energy and manufacturing technologies, and even build a more knowledgeable workforce. “The Swanson School’s partnership with industries such as Lubrizol Corporation – which is broad-based but includes a priority on process intensification research – reflects the mission of RAPID and the other Manufacturing Institutes to assure cooperation and to share approaches toward commercialization,” Matuszewski said. “Most importantly for Pitt, the RAPID framework will allow us to scale our existing collaboration model, almost instantaneously; we’ll be able to leverage the advances that RAPID supports to better train students with expertise in new technology approaches and the ability to engineer cutting-edge processes. Moreover, we will position all RAPID students to advance the U.S. workforce by invigorating it with advanced, environmentally-conscious expertise and increasing high tech job opportunities to further strengthen our country’s manufacturing industry.” ###


ChemE Student Kendra LaVallee Named Swanson School and ASEE National Co-op Student of the Year

Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (December 20, 2016) … The American Society for Engineering Education’s (ASEE) Cooperative & Experiential Education Division (CEED) has named Kendra LaVallee, a University of Pittsburgh student studying chemical engineering, the 2017 National Co-op Student of the Year. LaVallee will attend the annual ASEE conference in Jacksonville, Florida in February to receive her award. LaVallee is the fourth Pitt student to be named ASEE Co-op Student of the Year, tying Georgia Tech for the most student winners.  LaVallee was named the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering Co-op Student of the Year for 2016 for her accomplishments as a Technical Operations Co-op at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. She received six Johnson & Johnson Encore Awards, including four gold, one silver and one bronze. LaVallee worked on several projects, including the international launch of a major gastrointestinal product with estimated annual sales of $40 million and the continuous improvement process for an alternative analytical procedure for the company’s highest selling product with a yearly projected savings of $375,000. “Pitt’s rigorous chemical engineering program equipped me with the tools necessary to succeed during co-op,” says LaVallee. “Co-oping at Johnson & Johnson has been the best decision of my undergraduate career. I was able to apply my academic knowledge to industry, then upon my return to Pitt, understand the industrial relevance of my studies.” Lavallee’s experience at Johnson & Johnson has encouraged her to pursue a certificate in supply chain management. While at Johnson & Johnson, LaVallee also served as the Professional Development Chair of the McNeil Intern and Co-op Association within Johnson & Johnson. She planned presentations and networking events for more than 30 co-op students. Steve Won, staff scientist at Johnson & Johnson and Lavallee’s manager, nominated her for the Co-op Student of the Year award. LaVallee will graduate in the fall 2017 and will receive her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. She is a research assistant in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Lab under the direction of Dr. Vinayak Sant, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. She was previously a research assistant in the Biomaterials Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Prashant Kumta, the Edward R. Weidlein Chair Professor at the Swanson School of Engineering and School of Dental Medicine. In this role, she engineered polymeric materials with load-bearing biodegradable properties that will incorporate growth factors and cell therapy. LaVallee is in the Honors Chemical Engineering Society, Omega Chi Epsilon and the Service & Fundraising Committee Member of Phi Sigma Rho. She is the Women’s Engineering Conference Publicity Chair for the Society of Women Engineers.  About the American Society for Engineering EducationThe American Society for Engineering Education is a nonprofit organization of individuals and institutions committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. Founded in 1893, ASEE’s organizational membership has grown to include more than 12,000 members, 400 engineering and engineering technology colleges and affiliates, more than 50 corporations and numerous government agencies and professional associations. The Cooperative & Experiential Education Division is an ASEE division for professionals in academia, business, industry and government who are specifically interested in and dedicated to the improvement and promotion of experiential learning through cooperative education and other quality work integrated learning programs. ### Image above: U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering Gerald H. Holder and Kendra LaVallee
Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Pitt Bioengineer, McGowan Institute Director William Wagner Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH—With 17 patents and more than 40 invention disclosures to his name, University of Pittsburgh professor William Wagner has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Wagner, who is director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has also been involved in six licenses or options of Pitt technology, including three with the startup company Neograft Technologies, which is developing new treatment options for coronary artery bypass surgery and recently initiated clinical trials in Europe. Neograft was cofounded by Wagner; collaborator David Vorp, associate dean for research at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering; and two former Pitt bioengineering students. In his most recent patent, Wagner and his colleagues developed a temperature-sensitive polymer hydrogel that could be useful as a drug-delivery vehicle or as scaffolding for tissue engineering. The material, which is designed to stretch with the body to mimic soft tissue, could be used to repair heart muscle, or with injectable stem cells for regenerative therapies, or as a bulking agent for cosmetic applications. Wagner and colleagues have also invented a series of new biodegradable, elastic polymers that can be used to slow the dilatation of the heart following a heart attack as well as in other applications, such as creating heart valves. Wagner is the third Pitt faculty member to be named an NAI Fellow, joining Mir Imran, adjunct professor of bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, who was elected in 2015, and Rory Cooper, director of Pitt’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, who was elected in 2014. In addition to serving as director of the McGowan Institute, Wagner is a professor of surgery, bioengineering, and chemical engineering at Pitt. He also serves as chairman of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society-Americas, deputy director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials, and chief scientific officer of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Wagner is the founding editor and editor-in-chief of one of the leading biomaterials and biomedical engineering journals, Acta Biomaterialia. Election to NAI Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society. With the election of the 2016 class there are now 757 NAI Fellows, representing 229 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes. The 2016 Fellows are named inventors on 5,437 issued U.S. patents, bringing the collective patents held by all NAI Fellows to more than 26,000. The 2016 Fellows will be inducted on April 6, 2017, as part of the Sixth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Mass. The U.S. Commissioner for Patents, Andrew H. Hirshfeld, will provide the keynote address for the induction ceremony. In honor of their outstanding accomplishments, Fellows will be presented with a special trophy, medal, and rosette pin. More information on the NAI Fellows nomination process can be found at www.AcademyofInventors.org/Fellows.asp. ###
Author: John Fedele, University of Pittsburgh News Services

Upcoming Events

view more