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.

Read our latest newsletter below


ChemE Graduate Student Alexandra May Receives Willem Kolff Award at ASAIO Annual Meeting

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 19, 2018) …The American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO) selected Alexandra May, a chemical engineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, as a finalist for the Willem Kolff Award at its 64th annual meeting. The award, named after the late Dutch physician who invented the original artificial kidney, recognizes the top abstracts at each annual meeting. May is a graduate student in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program and works in the Medical Devices Laboratory under the direction of William Federspiel, a William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering at Pitt. The lab develops clinically significant devices for the treatment of pulmonary and cardiovascular ailments by utilizing engineering principles of fluid flow and mass transfer. May’s research focuses on the development of the Pittsburgh Pediatric Ambulatory Lung (P-PAL), an artificial lung device developed to bridge pediatric acute or chronic lung failure patients to transplant. The P-PAL integrates the blood pump and gas exchanging hollow fiber membrane bundle into a single compact unit and provides 70 percent to 90 percent of the patient’s oxygenation needs. The compact design of the P-PAL provides children with increased mobility pre-transplant, a factor which has been shown to improve post-transplant outcomes. The ASAIO Annual Meeting was held June 13-16, 2018 in Washington, D.C. May’s abstract titled Acute in vivo Performance of a Pediatric Ambulatory Artificial Lung was awarded second place out of approximately 300 accepted abstracts, and she presented her work during the conference’s opening general session. “Alex deserves this recognition,” said Federspiel. “She is an extremely hard worker and devoutly dedicated to our mission of improving the lives of kids with respiratory failure.” ###


Pitt Engineering Professor Steven Little receives international Young Investigator Award for development of novel drug delivery systems

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (May 30, 2018) … The Controlled Release Society has announced that University of Pittsburgh Professor Steven Little is the recipient of its 2018 Young Investigator award. The honor annually recognizes one individual in the world, 40 years of age or younger, for outstanding contributions in the science of controlled release. Dr. Little is the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.Dr. Little’s focuses on novel drug delivery systems that mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation.  This allows for dosages that are millions of times smaller than current medicine, and his next-generation treatments have shown promise for addressing a number of conditions including glaucoma, periodontal disease, wound healing, cancer, skin allergic dermatitis, and even transplantation of tissues and limbs.  New “controlled release” systems developed by Dr. Little are applied once and then released over a period of days or months, depending on the medication. His controlled release discoveries resulted in the co-founding of Pittsburgh-based Qrono Inc., which provides custom designed controlled release formulations for academic laboratories and agricultural and pharmaceutical companies.Previous Young Investigator Award recipients include:2017   Zhen Gu2016   Ryan Donnelly2015   Twan Lammers2014   Suzie Pun2013   Ali Khademhosseini2012   Cory Berkland2011   Molly Stevens2010  Krish Roy2009   Justin Hanes2008   Samir Mitragotri2007   David Putnam2006   Stefaan De Smedt2005   Mark Prausnitz2004   Jean-Christophe Leroux2003   Duncan Craig2003   Glen Kwon2002   Steve Schwendeman2001  Jeffrey Cleland2001   Saghir Akhtar2000   Claus-Michael Lehr1999   Derek O'Hagan1998   Antonios Mikos1997   Martyn Davies1996   W. Mark Saltzman1996   Joke Bouwstra1995   Rainer Mueller1994   Kam Leong1993  Ruth Duncan1992   Joachim Kohn1992   Kinam Park1991   Vincent Lee1990   Patrick Couvreur1989   Ronald Siegel1988   Richard GuyMore About Dr. LittleDr. Steven Little is a William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Bioengineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Immunology, Ophthalmology and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT in 2005, with his thesis winning the American Association for Advancement of Science's Excellence in Research Award. Researchers in Dr. Little’s Lab focus upon therapies that are biomimetic and replicate the biological function and interactions of living entities using synthetic systems. Areas of study include bioengineering, chemistry, chemical engineering, ophthalmology, and immunology, and the health issues addressed include autoimmune disease, battlefield wounds, cancer, HIV, ocular diseases, and transplantation. Dr. Little currently has 10 provisional, 2 pending, and 5 issued patents.Dr. Little has been recognized by national and international awards including the Curtis W. McGraw Research Award from the ASEE, being elected as a fellow of the BMES and AIMBE, a Carnegie Science Award for Research, the Society for Biomaterials' Young Investigator Award, the University of Pittsburgh's Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award, being named a Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar, being named an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator, and being elected to the Board of Directors of the Society for Biomaterials. In addition, Dr. Little's exceptional teaching and leadership in education have also been recognized by both the University of Pittsburgh's Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award and a 2nd Carnegie Science Award for Post-Secondary Education. Dr. Little was also recently named one of Pittsburgh Magazine's 40 under 40, a “Fast Tracker” by the Pittsburgh Business Times, and also one of only five individuals in Pittsburgh who are “reshaping our world” by Pop City Media. About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum EngineeringThe Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty holds a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. Chemical Engineering departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million. ###


Planet Philadelphia interviews Dr. Eric Beckman for segment, "What To Do About Plastic?"

Chemical & Petroleum

Visit the Planet Philadelphia Radio Show for the original post. Plastic has innumerable good uses in our modern world, but we’re drowning in plastic waste. What should we do about it? Tune in to this Planet Philadelphia environmental radio show to find out about what we can do, as the guests discuss new, environmentally sensitive approaches to waste. Reducing waste and saving businesses money: Alisa Shargorodsky, founder and chief source reductionist at Echo Systems, a consulting business, will talk about ways to help businesses and organizations move towards zero waste while saving money in their operations. She specializes in group empowerment, leadership and shifting the culture of the work force. Using nanotechnology to make unrecyclable packing recyclable: Dr. Eric Beckman, professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He was recently awarded a large grant by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and NineSigma as one of the five University of Pittsburgh Departmental winners of the Circular Materials Challenge. (Dr. Beckman's segment begins at 00:23:48.)


“Doping” to Reduce Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (May 3, 2018) …  A recent article in the sustainable chemistry journal ChemSusChem revealed researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are “doping” nanoparticles to enhance their ability to capture carbon dioxide and provide a raw source of carbon for industrial processes. Not to be confused with its negative use in athletics, “doping” in chemical engineering refers to adding a substance into another material to improve its performance.Along with global temperatures, research into the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) is on the rise. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached a historic high of 408 parts per million, according to the latest measurements by NASA. Previous studies have shown the connection between greenhouse gases like CO2 and the warming trend, which began around the turn of the 20th century.“Many of our industrial processes contribute to the alarming amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, so we need to develop new technologies to intervene,” says Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it to useful chemicals can be both environmentally and industrially beneficial.”Dr. Mpourmpakis co-authored the study titled “Design of Copper-Based Bimetallic Nanoparticles for Carbon Dioxide Adsorption and Activation” (DOI: 10.1002/cssc.201702342) in ChemSusChem, with other researchers in Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering including Professor Götz Veser and three PhD students: James Dean, Natalie Austin, and Yahui Yang. An artistic depiction of the zirconium-doped copper nanomaterials appeared on one of the journal’s covers for Volume 11, Issue 7 in April 2018.Through a series of computer simulations and lab experiments, the researchers designed and developed a stable catalyst for the capture and activation of CO2 by doping copper nanoparticles with zirconium. The researchers believe the nanoparticles have large potential for reducing the carbon footprint of certain processes such as burning fossil fuels. However, CO2 molecules are rather reluctant to change.“CO2 is a very stable molecule which needs to be 'activated' to convert it. This activation happens by binding CO2 to catalyst sites that make the carbon-oxygen bond less stable. Our experiments confirmed the computational chemistry calculations in the Mpourmpakis group that doping copper with zirconium creates a good candidate for weakening the CO2 bonds,” explains Dr. Veser. Mpourmpakis’ group used computational chemistry to simulate hundreds of potential experiments vastly more quickly and less expensively than traditional lab methods and identified the most promising candidate dopant which was then experimentally verified. Copper nanoparticles are well-suited for the conversion of CO2 to useful chemicals because they are cheap, and they are excellent hydrogenation catalysts. Through hydrogenation, CO2 can be converted to higher-value chemicals such as methanol (CH3OH) or methane (CH4). Unfortunately, converting CO2 also requires its activation which copper is not able to deliver. Zirconium gets along well with copper and naturally activates CO2.“To have an effective dopant, you need to have sites on the catalyst surface that pass electrons to CO2,” says Dr. Mpourmpakis. “The dopant changes the electronic characteristics of materials, and we found zirconium is particularly effective at activating the CO2.”The Pitt researchers tested a number of different nanoparticle configurations and found the zirconium-doped copper nanoparticles particularly promising catalysts for hydrogenating CO2 and have already begun testing their effectiveness. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Expanding Boundaries: Pitt undergraduate Nadine Humphrey wins Vira I. Heinz award to study abroad

Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 26, 2018) … Each year, the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership (VIH) admits undergraduate women from 15 institutions across Pennsylvania into a one-year leadership development program that includes an opportunity to study abroad. One of this year’s recipients from the University of Pittsburgh is Nadine Humphrey, a chemical engineering sophomore in the Swanson School of Engineering who will participate in the Pitt in Japan program this summer. The VIH program provides funding for women who have never traveled internationally and prepares them for tomorrow’s global challenges. In addition to international experience, recipients are required to attend two leadership development retreats in Pittsburgh and "create a Community Engagement Experience” designed to use their new-found skills to impact their local community in a positive way. Humphrey will be spending her time abroad in Kobe, Japan where she will explore the language and culture. During the VIH Spring Retreat, participants established goals in a specific area of focus, and she chose to examine economic opportunity in Japan. “The Pitt in Japan program offers a class called ‘Doing Business in Japan,’ where we will learn about Japanese business practices and visit a company abroad. I plan to observe their work culture and compare it to the American experience,” said Humphrey. “I would also like to interact with Japanese university students to understand how they value a college education and compare their views of the working world to those of my peers.” She hopes these interactions will help improve her Japanese language skills. “I was eager to study in Japan because I have been interested in the language for a long time, but it is difficult to learn without some kind of formal education,” said Humphrey. “During this program, I want to develop my speaking and listening skills to function on a conversational level. Being able to communicate with people from another country will give me a more global perspective and will help me get a picture of current events from the eyes of another culture.” In addition to the international experience, Humphrey hopes to take away new skills from the leadership component of the program. “I heard about this opportunity from a poster in my dorm freshman year. I thought it was neat that I could travel abroad, gain leadership skills, and use what I learned to effect change back home,” said Humphrey.  “I have enjoyed participating in volunteer opportunities as a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, and I hope that my experience in this program will help me find new ways to get involved around the city.” The program’s namesake, Vira I. Heinz, was an active member of the Pittsburgh community and engaged in philanthropic and civic work around the region and internationally. She left a lasting mark in Pennsylvania by funding international opportunities to generations of women after her. ###

Upcoming Events

view more