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.

Aug
13
2015

Pitt research team’s discovery of new nanomaterial behavior featured on cover of American Chemical Society journal

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (August 13, 2015) … Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering discovered new insights into nanoscale phenomena that provide a greater understanding of the overall functionality of nanoparticles. Their paper, "Au 13 : CO Adsorbs, Nanoparticle Responds," appeared on the cover of the American Chemical Society's publication Journal of Physical Chemistry C (volume 119, issue 32, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b03459) on August 13. Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, served as principal investigator, and graduate student researcher Natalie Austin and J. Karl Johnson, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, co-authored the paper. The researchers found an unexpected adsorption, or adhesion, behavior of carbon monoxide (CO) molecules on Au13 nanoparticles-clusters containing exactly 13 gold atoms. Unlike the well-established, size-dependent adsorption trend on nanoparticles (CO binding increases with decreasing nanoparticle size), Au13 exhibited shape-dependent behavior when binding to the CO molecules. A 3-dimensional Au13 nanoparticle is generated from the 2-dimensional stable structure in the presence of CO molecules. Interestingly, Mpourmpakis said, the 3-dimensional Au13 nanoparticle binds stronger the CO molecules than the 2-dimensional structure, which is lacking bonds on its surface. "The binding of molecules to metal surfaces is critically important because it is the basic first step in all catalytic processes," Mpourmpakis said. "This is critical to produce the building blocks for almost all manufactured products." The unusual behavior is the result of quantum electronic effects at the nanoscale, which dictate how electrons are distributed on the nanoparticles having different shapes. The research team used atomically-detailed computer simulations to reveal the behavior of Au13 adsorption. "Our simulations showed that in the presence of CO, the 2-dimensional Au13 nanoparticle restructured to a 3-dimensional structure on an incredibly short time scale of just a few picoseconds (trillionths of a second)," added Johnson, who is also co-director of Pitt's Center for Simulation and Modeling. In their paper, the authors highlighted that other computer simulations can unravel very complicated phenomena at the nanoscale including molecular adsorption and structural dynamics of nanoparticles in a chemical environment. The understanding of these phenomena determines, to a large extent, the overall functionality of nanoparticles, including in catalysis, chemical sensing, medical devices, optical materials, and other applications. Mpourmpakis leads his team in the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (C.A.N.E.LA.) at the University of Pittsburgh. Using theory and computation, the researchers investigate the physicochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse nanotechnological areas, ranging from green energy and storage to materials engineering and catalysis. The Center for Simulation and Modeling (SaM) at the University of Pittsburgh is dedicated to supporting and facilitating computational-based research across campus. SaM serves as a catalyst for multidisciplinary collaborations among professors, sponsors modeling-focused seminars, teaches graduate-level modeling courses and provides individual consultation in modeling to all researchers at the University. Its areas of research include: energy and sustainability, nanoscience and materials engineering, medicine and biology, and economics and the social sciences. About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and our industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Our commitment to the future of the chemical process industry drives the development of educational and research programs. The Department has a tradition of excellence in education and research, evidenced by recent national awards including numerous NSF CAREER Awards, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, an NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and the DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award, among others. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. ChE departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million. The vibrant research culture within the Department includes active collaboration with the adjacent University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Center for Simulation and Modeling, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering and the U.S. DOE-affiliated Institute for Advanced Energy Solutions.
Paul Kovach
pkovach@pitt.edu
Jul
24
2015

Clearing Paths for Renewable Fuels and Chemicals

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (July 24, 2015) … The University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering has a rich history of petroleum and coal research, including establishing the first petroleum engineering program in the world in 1910. Today, Pitt engineering faculty are building upon those decades of research by exploring new sustainable methods to convert carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) into other materials. To further his research in renewable energy catalysts, the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund recently awarded a Doctoral New Investigator Award to John A. Keith, PhD, assistant professor and Richard King Mellon Faculty Fellow in Energy in the Swanson School's Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. The two-year, $110,000 grant, "Unraveling Heterocycle-Promoted Hydride Transfer Mechanisms for Energetically Efficient Fuel and Petrochemical Production" will enable Dr. Keith to study design principles for renewable energy catalysts that efficiently convert CO 2 into fuels and chemicals. In particular, the funding will support Dr. Keith's computational modeling research at Pitt's Center for Simulation and Modeling (SaM) to better understand how molecules and materials can catalyze chemical reactions. "Sustainable fuels research is hard because we need to discover ways to make difficult chemistry work without it being too expensive or energy-intensive," Dr. Keith explained. According to Dr. Keith, the research program centers on understanding the role of molecules known as aromatic N-heterocycles, which earlier studies have shown can make CO 2 recycling more energetically efficient. The exact role of these molecules remains unclear, but Dr. Keith's group has identified links between these molecules and biological enzymes that catalyze natural chemical reactions efficiently. Although the research is unlikely to lead to less CO 2 in the atmosphere in the near future, it will allow Dr. Keith's group to develop blueprints for how to make better catalysts. New investigations may also lead to the discovery of molecules that assist in other green chemical processes, such as efficient water splitting for renewable hydrogen generation or other energetically efficient routes to produce commodity chemicals in a more sustainable manner. About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and our industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Our commitment to the future of the chemical process industry drives the development of educational and research programs. The Department has a tradition of excellence in education and research, evidenced by recent national awards including numerous NSF CAREER Awards, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, an NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and the DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award, among others. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. ChE departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million. The vibrant research culture within the Department includes active collaboration with the adjacent University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Center for Simulation and Modeling, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering and the U.S. DOE-affiliated Institute for Advanced Energy Solutions. ###
Paul Kovach
pkovach@pitt.edu
Jul
16
2015

Steven Little Elected Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (July 16, 2015) … Steven Little , Associate Professor, CNG Faculty Fellow and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, has been elected a Class of 2015 Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) . Founded in 1968, BMES is an interdisciplinary professional society for biomedical engineering and bioengineering. Fellow status is awarded to Society members who demonstrate exceptional achievements and experience in the field of biomedical engineering, and a record of membership and participation in the Society. Dr. Little holds eight US patents and provisional applications for patents including new methods to fabricate controlled release vehicles in a high throughput fashion; dissolvable synthetic-vasculature; novel complex delivery vehicles; and a description of the first degradable, artificial cell.  He has authored/co-authored 70 articles in highly prestigious archival journals in his fields of specialization (controlled release, biomimetic materials, tissue engineering/regenerative medicine and drug delivery). "Dr. Little's election as BMES Fellow recognizes his seminal contributions to bioengineering education and research during his academic career," noted Harvey Borovetz , Distinguished Professor and Former Chair of Bioengineering and the Robert L. Hardesty Professor of Surgery at Pitt, and BMES Fellow who nominated Dr. Little. "In addition to his remarkable achievements in his research, Dr. Little is a prolific classroom instructor whose courses are among the most highly rated in the Swanson School of Engineering. He is the mentor for numerous M.S. and Ph.D. candidates; his lab is a magnet for undergraduate students, with more than 40 undergraduate interns being mentored by Dr. Little to date.  We are very proud to recognize Dr. Steven Little as a Class of 2015 Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society." Dr. Little joins the ranks of several BMES Fellows at Pitt, including Dr. Borovetz; Clifford Brubaker , Distinguished Service Professor and Dean Emeritus of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences; Rory Cooper , FISA/PVA Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences; William Federspiel , the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering; Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and the Gerald E. McGinnis Chair in Bioengineering and Professor of Medicine; David Vorp , Associate Dean for Research in the Swanson School of Engineering and the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering; William Wagner , Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Professor of Surgery, Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering; and Savio L-Y. Woo , Distinguished University Professor of Bioengineering and the Founder and Director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center (MSRC). More About Dr. Little Dr. Steven Little is Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, Immunology, Ophthalmology and The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a University Honors College Faculty Fellow. Dr. Little 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. In May of 2012, Dr. Little was appointed as the 12th Chairman of the Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, one of the oldest Departments of its type in the world, dating back to 1910. In his first year on the Pitt faculty (2006), Dr. Little was appointed as a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Engineering, the only Assistant Professor to hold this position. In 2007, he received career development awards from both the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health (K-Award). In 2008, Dr. Little was named as one of only 16 Beckman Young Investigators by the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation. Dr. Little is the only individual from the University of Pittsburgh to have ever received this award. In 2009, he was presented with the Board of Visitors Award that denotes the "single most outstanding faculty member in the School of Engineering." In 2010, he received the Coulter Translational Research Award from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. In 2011, Dr. Little was named the recipient of the Society For Biomaterials' Young Investigator Award. In 2012, Dr. Little received the University of Pittsburgh's Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award, and by winning the 2013 Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, Dr. Little stands as the only professor in School history to receive both the teaching and research awards. Dr. Little was also named as one of only 14 "Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars" by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation in 2013 and also was named the recipient of the Carnegie Science Award for University Educators that year. In 2014, Dr. Little was named the winner of the Research to Prevent Blindness Innovative Ophthalmic Research Award, the recipient of a Phase II Coulter Translational Award, named one of Pittsburgh Magazine's "40 under 40," and highlighted as one of only five individuals in Pittsburgh who are "reshaping our world" by Pop City Media. In 2015, Dr. Little was named the winner of the Carnegie Science Award for Advanced Materials, a Fast Tracker (University Leader category) by the Pittsburgh Business Times, a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and the winner of the 2015 Curtis W. McGraw Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Dr. Little is also a Co-Founder of Qrono Inc. , which is a Pittsburgh-based start-up company that provides custom designed controlled release formulations for pharmaceutical companies, agricultural industry, and academic laboratories. About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering The 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. The Department maintains a tradition of excellence in education and research, evidenced by recent national awards including numerous NSF CAREER Awards, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, an NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and the DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award, among others. 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. The vibrant research culture within the Department includes active collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Center for Simulation and Modeling, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering and the U.S. DOE-affiliated Institute for Advanced Energy Solutions. ###
Paul Kovach
Jun
19
2015

NETL honors former Lab Director Irving Wender in celebration of his centennial birthday

Chemical & Petroleum

Posted with permission of NETL . In a rich, productive life of research, teaching, and discovery, Dr. Irving Wender has been on a remarkable 100-year journey that took him from humble beginnings in the Bronx, NY, to atomic bomb research in secret labs of Chicago; energy research  laboratories and university classrooms of  Pittsburgh; and the halls of government in Washington, D.C.-all in humble pursuit of scientific advancements that continue to set high standards of excellence for the generations of scientists who follow in his footsteps. Directing the fossil energy research work of the Pittsburgh-based Bureau of Mines, the predecessor to NETL, was just one of Wender's numerous assignments in a distinguished career. As he marks his 100th birthday on June 19, 2015, NETL proudly joins in the celebration and honors his many energy research contributions. Wender was born on June 19, 1915, five years after the Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh ignited a controlled explosion at its Pittsburgh Experiment Station's experimental coal mine and ushered in an new era of mine safety research that steadily evolved into fossil energy innovations. Less than two decades later, Wender embarked on a career that would eventually include a leadership role at that very same facility.   After obtaining his B.S. in chemistry from The City College of New York and an M.S. from Columbia University, Wender was drafted into the U.S. Army and found himself working on the Manhattan Project, finding ways to make radioactive iodine and ruthenium volatile and, thus, gaseous so its effects could be studied from 1944 to 1946. After his discharge, Wender learned that the U.S. Bureau of Mines' Pittsburgh Experiment Station in Bruceton, PA-an NETL predecessor organization-was looking for researchers to work on an energy project. He wrote to Dr. Henry Storch, who headed the Station. Storch offered Wender a position researching the causes and acceleration of chemical changes that occur with the addition of catalysts-homogenous catalysis-and other organic chemistry topics. Two years after Wender reported for duty in Pittsburgh in 1946, the Synthetic Liquid Fuels Act of 1944 led to the Pittsburgh Experiment Station becoming the Bruceton Energy Research Center (BERC).   Nearly 300 scientists worked at BERC's new laboratories and pilot plants, focusing on coal-hydrogenation and Fischer-Tropsch processes to help cut energy costs and eliminate the need for expensive, custom-built equipment. Wender worked on reactions that would provide insight into Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, a process first developed by German scientists to convert carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons like low-sulfur diesel fuel. The United States was attempting to duplicate the process. While working at BERC, Wender made several important marks on NETL's history. His work with organometallic intermediates-the study of chemical compounds containing at least one bond between a carbon atom of an organic compound and a metal-led researchers to discover a reaction that helped further develop Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. A Wender-led team's organometallic breakthroughs on hydrocarbons in the laboratory attracted the praise of Linus Pauling, who founded the fields of quantum chemistry and molecular biology research. He wrote to Wender's team to congratulate them on their discoveries.   While working at BERC, Wender earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh, and in 1953, he was selected by Storch to head the organic chemistry section of the lab, working with synthesis gas and dehydrogenating coal using a palladium catalyst to make hydrogen for energy use.   Wender became the first winner of the Henry H. Storch Award in 1964 for his contributions to research on the chemistry and utilization of coal. A noted leader in the conversion of coal to liquids, his unique coal chemistry research showed, among other things, that coal could be hydrogenated using metal-amine systems to produce large amounts of hydrogen gas. Wender took the helm as director of BERC-a position he initially rejected because of his passionate dedication to research. However, he overcame that reluctance and ushered in a prolific period in the facility's research history from 1972 through 1979-a time when money was being poured into energy research because of the energy crisis. Applied research projects for near-term results to help the nation become more energy-independent in environmentally friendly ways became the focus of BERC under Wender-priorities that remain at the forefront of NETL work in the 21st Century. Scientists strived to help energy developers use existing domestic wells more efficiently and exploit undeveloped and unconventional resources.   Under Wender's leadership, the Center flourished by cultivating contracts with academic, industrial, and government partners, as it conducted its own effective research. Researchers at BERC and its sister sites in Morgantown, WV, and Laramie, WY, gave developers access to more domestic oil. Because two-thirds of the petroleum in existing wells remained underground and difficult to recover, scientists at BERC developed fracturing and fluid injection to ease the flow of oil and recover more of it from tar sands. Natural gas shortages during the cold winter of 1976-1977 prompted Wender's researchers to investigate ways to tap unconventional natural-gas reservoirs that could yield natural gas in large quantities. Researchers began mapping gas-bearing rock formations-like shales and tight sandstones-to help identify physical and chemical characteristics, the amount of natural gas they contained, underground fracture patterns, and other characteristics that could aid in development. As BERC evolved into the Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center (PETC), Wender recognized that reducing coal's contributions to air pollution to comply with new national standards was paramount so the nation could make use of its substantial domestic coalbeds. Under his leadership, researchers focused on fluidized bed combustion, coal gasification, integrated gasification combined cycle technology, substitute natural gas and synthetic liquid fuels made from coal, and other technologies designed to make an energy impact. Wender's expertise was in demand in the federal government, and he eventually left PETC to tackle a series of critical assignments in Washington as special advisor to the program director of the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy, special assistant to the Secretary of Fossil Energy, and Director of the Office of Advanced Research and Technology Development. Wender's next challenge was in the classroom. He put his years of experience to work educating the next generation of chemists and energy researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. As a research professor with the University's Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry, he challenged students to use chemical reactions to solve problems in a range of disciplines from 1981 to 1990. Wender made outstanding contributions throughout his career, as an innovative researcher, energy leader, and dedicated educator. His work resulted in more than 200 papers, 5 edited books, and 11 patents. His work attracted a wide range of recognition. In addition to the Storch Award, he received accolades from the Secretary of Energy including one "in recognition of advancing fossil energy technology through highly innovative research on catalytic conversion of syngas to fuels and chemicals, coal liquefaction, and decisive guidance and inspirational leadership in shaping research programs in government, academia, and industry." The University of Pittsburgh's Department of Chemistry named him a Distinguished Alumni in 2002 for his impressive career and contributions. NETL is honored to not only help Dr. Wender celebrate a milestone birthday but to also commemorate an outstanding energy research career that continues to influence a new generation of scientists and engineers. Happy birthday Dr. Wender!

May
13
2015

Systems biology specialist Jason Shoemaker joins Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (May 13, 2015) … The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering has tapped systems biology and virus researcher Jason E. Shoemaker as a new assistant professor. Dr. Shoemaker will join the Swanson School in fall 2015. "Part of Jason's research experience was under one of the pioneers of systems biology, Dr. Hiroaki Kitano, and so we are indeed fortunate to recruit him to Pitt," noted Dr. Steve Little, associate professor, CNG Faculty Fellow and department chair. "Systems biology and computational modeling are advancing our understanding of complex environments, especially those related to disease and drug delivery, and so Jason brings a dynamic perspective to our department's research in those areas." "I am incredibly excited to join the Swanson School of Engineering," Dr. Shoemaker said. "Pitt's tradition of being a leader in medicine makes it the perfect environment to reach across disciplines and explore how engineering tools can be applied to better understand the origins of disease. My lab will develop and apply mathematical approaches to determine drivers of disease and to design new treatments."  Dr. Shoemaker earned his bachelor of science in chemical engineering from the University of Florida, and PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California - Santa Barbara. He currently is a project assistant professor and computations group team leader at the University of Tokyo, where he is head of the systems biology research unit within the Kawaoka virology unit. Prior to the University of Tokyo he was a research associate with the Japan Science and Technology's ERATO Infection-Induced Host Responses Project, and visiting researcher at the Systems Biology Institute under the direction of Dr. Kitano. He has published two patents in Japan and published several journal articles and book chapters. He is a native of West Palm Beach, Florida. About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and our industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Our commitment to the future of the chemical process industry drives the development of educational and research programs. The Department has a tradition of excellence in education and research, evidenced by recent national awards including numerous NSF CAREER Awards, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, an NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and the DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award, among others. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. ChE departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million. The vibrant research culture within the Department includes active collaboration with the adjacent University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Center for Simulation and Modeling, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering and the U.S. DOE-affiliated Institute for Advanced Energy Solutions.   ###  
Paul Kovach

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