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.

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ChemE and MEMS students are big winners at 2017 Blast Furnace

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS, Student Profiles

The problems a few dozen Pitt students wrestled with this semester weren’t in a homework assignment or an exam. They were often intensely personal problems, the solutions to which they had formed into the kernel of an idea for a new product or service. To nurture those ideas they entered the 6th cohort of the Pitt Blast Furnace student idea accelerator. The winning team as determined by the judges was DisSolves, the brainchild of Jared Raszewksi, an undergraduate in chemical and petroleum engineering. He was joined by Emelyn Jaros, a mechanical engineering undergraduate. Raszewski said he is a regular user of protein powders and was frustrated by the process of measuring and mixing the protein drinks. Read their solution and more at the Innovation Institute.
Mike Yeomans, Innovation Institute

ChemE Professors James McKone and Chris Wilmer named “rising stars” in electrochemical energy storage

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (December 4, 2017) … Two junior faculty members in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering were among a class of early-career researchers recognized for their nascent research in energy storage. James McKone and Christopher E. Wilmer, both Assistant Professors of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, along with their peers were honored as new Fellows at the first Scialog: Advanced Energy Storage meeting in Tucson, Arizona, Nov. 2-5, hosted by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. Drs. McKone and Wilmer were among Scialog’s outstanding 58 early-career researchers from U.S. academic institutions. According to Scialog, these rising stars participated in intensive discussions aimed at developing proposals for seed funding of transformative energy storage systems and novel research ideas to greatly improve efficiencies in advanced batteries, supercapacitors and related systems. Each Scialog brings together researchers from across traditional disciplinary boundaries – AES in this instance attracted chemists, engineers, materials scientists and physicists. Unlike most conferences, almost all the meeting time is devoted to carefully crafted breakout science discussions to explore novel ideas and develop a vibrant network of Scialog Fellows to advance basic research, which in turn can be applied to solve major societal problems. “I am tremendously proud of James and Chris, who are among Pitt’s outstanding young researchers in energy,” noted Steven R. Little, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Department Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “Their exploration of next-generation energy storage systems not only broadens the University’s portfolio, but also further establishes Pittsburgh as a nexus for energy R&D and innovation.” The conference yielded 35 competitive proposals, the most for any Scialog, created by teams of Fellows newly formed at the meeting. One of the goals of Scialog is to rapidly catalyze new collaborations, and members of each team are required not to have previously collaborated. Winning teams will be announced by the end of the year, according to RCSA Senior Program Director Richard Wiener. “Research Corporation chose to focus on advanced energy storage,” Dr. Wiener said, “because we believe this critical area of science requires major breakthroughs in fundamental understanding of electrochemical and physical processes that will lead to a new era of technological advance.” ### About Dr. McKone Dr. McKone’s research group studies fundamentals and applications of electrochemistry, photochemistry, and solid-state/materials chemistry with an emphasis on renewable energy and sustainability. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and music from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, MN and PhD in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he was advised by Harry Gray and Nathan Lewis. Prior to Pitt, Dr. McKone was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University under Héctor D. Abruña and Francis J. DiSalvo. About Dr. Wilmer Dr. Wilmer’s research focuses on the use of large-scale molecular simulations to help find promising materials for energy and environmental applications. He is the principal investigator of the Hypothetical Materials Lab at Pitt and leads his team in solving energy and environmental challenges with complex, hypothetical nanostructures called “molecular machines.” 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 Randall Q. Snurr. While at Northwestern, Dr. Wilmer 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, and is co-founder of Ledger, the first peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. For more information visit Dr. Wilmer’s website at www.wilmerlab.com.


Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Lubrizol Partner on $7.5 Million Project to Improve American Chemical Manufacturing

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (November 29, 2017) … The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the University of Pittsburgh Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Ohio specialty chemicals provider Lubrizol Corporation a collaborative grant for research into clean energy chemical manufacturing. The DOE grant, along with contributions from Pitt and Lubrizol, will total $7.5 million over a four-year period.“The project will focus on applying advanced chemical engineering research to industrial-scale chemical manufacturing,” said Steven Little, William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt. “The Pitt-Lubrizol partnership aligns well with University efforts to work with businesses to translate research into industry practices and impact the region’s economy in a positive way.”The grant is part of the DOE’s Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) initiative, a partnership between the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the DOE. Both Pitt and Lubrizol are among the 45 members of the $70 million AIChE/RAPID Initiative for improving energy efficiency and industrial productivity through process intensification and modular manufacturing—two design approaches for chemical manufacturing at industry-relevant scales.“At Lubrizol, we are working with thousands of tons of chemicals per year,” said Cliff Kowall, Lubrizol technical fellow and corporate engineer. “The end objective is to provide the design basis to allow Lubrizol to deploy these innovative processes with sharp reductions in waste generation, utility, and energy costs, capital cost, and footprint accompanied by an improvement in quality consistency.” Kowall was integral in establishing the initial partnership between Pitt and Lubrizol, which began in 2014 with a $1.2 million Strategic Alliance agreement. The partnership brought about opportunities for students to learn about engineering needs in an industrial environment, while at the same time benefiting Lubrizol through research projects tailored to its business operations. Last month, Pitt and Lubrizol renewed the partnership, worth roughly $1 million invested over a three-year period. “The University of Pittsburgh was by far the best fit for us to establish a relationship with a university, largely due to the enthusiasm of the Pitt Chemical Engineering leadership team,” said Kowall. “Lubrizol made a long-term commitment initially, and now we’ve extended it for three more years with the expectation of it lasting indefinitely.”The partnership helped Pitt’s Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department develop the course “Introduction to Chemical Product Design” (ChE 0214). Open to students in their sophomore year, the course teaches how to design products specific to a customer’s needs. In a traditional paradigm, engineering students don’t work on design projects until their senior years. “This alliance has led to new educational programs that are first-of-their-kind in the country, exposing our students to unique opportunities to learn design principles and leading to multiple awards and even a spin-out company for our students,” said Dr. Little. The follow-up course, “Taking Products to Market: The Next Step in Chemical Product Design” (ChE 0314), focuses on entrepreneurship and the skills necessary to successfully turn their ideas into products or companies.“About half of the initial $1.2 million agreement went into the development of these courses and the resources to ensure our students’ success,” said Dr. Little. “Collaborating with Lubrizol directly, plus a jumpstart on product design, really gives our students a competitive advantage after graduation.”Another feature of the partnership was the creation of the ‘University of Pittsburgh Physical Property Internship,’ which is a nine-month internship targeted at chemical engineering students who graduate in December and are intending to go to graduate school in the fall.“This helps Lubrizol as well as the student who might have trouble finding something worthwhile to do in that rather awkward time. Three of the first four recipients became full-time employees,” said Kowall. “We have put emphasis on recruiting co-op students from Pitt. We work with the faculty to identify high potential candidates. Retention has been excellent in keeping co-op students as full-time employees.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Pitt Chemical & Petroleum Engineering Professor Robert Parker receives 2017 Swanson School of Engineering Board of Visitors Award

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (November 10, 2017) … Recognizing the impact of his tenure on students, faculty and peers, the Board of Visitors of the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering recognized Robert Parker with the 2017 Board of Visitors Award. Dr. Parker, Professor and Vice Chair for Graduate Education in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, was recognized for faculty excellence in teaching, research and service, and for contributions to the University, the Swanson School, and the engineering discipline.“Dr. Parker’s outstanding bona fides not only met our qualifications, but truly exceeded them,” noted Roberta A. Luxbacher BSChE ’78, Chair of the Board of Visitors. “Most importantly, his passion for education has had a tremendous impact on student success as well as the growth of the department. On behalf of the Board of Visitors, we are proud to recognize him with this year’s award and thank him for his contributions to the University, the Swanson School and the field of chemical engineering.”“In a word, Bob’s contributions to student success, department growth and research excellence is unparalleled,” added Steven R. Little, Department Chair and William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, who nominated Dr. Parker. “He is a game-changer and inspiration to student and faculty alike, and I can’t thank him enough for his selfless dedication to our department.”In Dr. Little’s nomination letter, he noted that in 2017 alone, Dr. Parker’s significant achievements included: Promotion as the Department’s Vice Chair for Graduate Education; graduating four PhD students; publishing eight papers; directing one of the department’s National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates programs; receiving a 4.75 OTE score in 0500 Process Systems with 63 students, establishing ENGR 1933: Engineering a Craft Brewery, the only course of its kind taught at an engineering school, and; receiving the Swanson School of Engineering’s Outstanding Educator Award. “I am honored to be named the 2017 Board of Visitors Award winner. This award truly recognizes the outstanding team of graduate students and collaborators, both clinical and within the Swanson School of Engineering, that I have had an opportunity to work closely with,” Dr. Parker said. “I thoroughly enjoy the collaborative research and problem-solving environment at Pitt, as well as my classroom interactions teaching the next generation of impactful Chemical Engineers and, for the first time, aspiring Craft Brewers.”Dr. Parker joined the University of Pittsburgh faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2000 and promoted to Professor in 2014. His research program focuses on systems medicine and the use of mathematical models in the design of clinical decision support systems. In addition to the Outstanding Educator Award, he has been recognized for excellence in education through the Carnegie Science Center Excellence in Higher Education Award and the David L. Himmelblau Award from the Computing and Systems Technology (CAST) Division of AIChE. His commitment to a collaborative future in graduate education formed the basis of two funded Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) training programs, as well as the Systems Medicine Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. As Vice Chair for Graduate Education, Dr. Parker is responsible for developing graduate-level training programs to support PhD students, leading graduate recruitment and admission; managing PhD timelines; collaborating with the Swanson School Office of Diversity to maintain a diverse graduate program; serving as faculty advisor of the Department's Graduate Student Association; and managing faculty teaching assignments. ###


Engineering Students Make Strong Showing at Startup Blitz

Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

Innovation Institute News Release Jenna Gustafson and Megan Cala, doctoral candidates in the Chemical Engineering department, brought their idea for a breathalyzer for cancer screening to the Innovation Institute’s Startup Blitz not knowing what to expect. Twenty-four hours later they left with two potential new team members, a $1,000 cash award and plans to advance their idea next semester in the Randall Family Big Idea Competition. Gustafson and Cala were among the nearly 50 students who turned out at the O’Hara Student Center to pitch their ideas and work with an experienced entrepreneur in residence to craft a customer value proposition and then pitch their ideas to a group of VIP judges from local startup accelerators. Click here to view a flickr gallery of the event. “It was really helpful to have two people join the team who hadn’t heard of our idea until the Blitz started,” Gustafson said of recruiting fellow engineering doctoral student Henry Ayoola and Chidi Nurakpuda, an undergraduate biology major, to the team after the initial round of student pitches narrowed the teams down from nearly 30 to eight. “They brought a new perspective and allowed our concept to evolve over the day. Also, speaking with the entrepreneurs-in-residence really helped us narrow down a product and how to market it, as well as giving us the confidence to sell our idea. We were really pushed to stretch beyond our comfort zones,” she said. Gustafson’s team, under the name Common Sense, took second place in the pitch contest. First place went to another team, Maternal Assistance, which is also primarily comprised of students from the Swanson School of Engineering. Maternal Assistance team is developing an algorithm that predicts risk of maternal hemorrhage based on a set of clinical tests routinely performed upon arrival for labor and delivery. Teammates include Michelle Pressly and Kutay Sezginel, graduate students in the Chemical Engineering Department, Alex Wallace, a senior Mechanical Engineering student and Toby Sheung, a senior Neuroscience major. “The experience at the Blitz helped me learn about how the startup process works, something I had little knowledge of beforehand,” Pressly said. “Additionally, the process aided in my ability to articulate this idea in an accessible way. I learned a lot from each of the EIRs and my teammates, who challenged me to think of multiple perspectives on this idea and approach.” Pressly said her team also plans to move the idea forward to the Big Idea competition next semester. Entering its 10th year, the Big Idea competition is one of the largest idea pitch competitions in the region, with $100,000 in cash awards, including a $25,000 top prize. Third place and $500 went to the Ghost Trekkers team of Mackenzie Coat of Arts & Sciences, Sridhar Velagala of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ev Durazo of Graduate School of Public & International Affairs and Zhengjia Fu, of Arts & Sciences. The team, led by Coates, is developing an streaming Internet show about ghosts. Coates, a recent transfer to Pitt, recently filmed an intro for the show at the Cathedral of Learning and is hoping to begin streaming episodes before Halloween. Babs Carryer, director of education and outreach for the Innovation Institute, said she was overwhelmed by the number of students who pitched ideas at the Blitz and said she urges students whose ideas did not advance to the second day to not give up. “Often an initial idea needs additional exploration and refinement, what we call a ‘pivot’, to be successful,” she said. “I will be following up with each of the students who pitched their idea on the first night of Blitz and suggest they reach out to one of our entrepreneurs in residence to discuss ways to improve their ideas so that they might participate in upcoming programming and competitions. Carryer said another Startup Blitz will be held in January, and applications for the Big Idea competition will be accepted beginning in February. Image above: Michelle Pressly, center, and members of the Maternal Assistance team Kutay Sezginel, left, and Alex Wallace, right, work on their presentation prior to the Startup Blitz pitch competition. .
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