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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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. .
Innovation Institute

“Cellular” Biology

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (October 12, 2017) … White blood cells are like the “assassins” of systems biology. Some destroy viruses by swallowing them whole, others lie ready to sound the alarm with inflammation, while “natural killer” white blood cells hose down infected cells with a toxin that causes immediate cell death. The human immune system is an intense, fast-paced game of cat and mouse on a cellular level, and thanks to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, now the game can take place on a cell phone.Jason Shoemaker, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, and Robert Gregg, a PhD candidate studying intercellular immunity in Dr. Shoemaker’s group, created the game “Vir-ed”—a virtual reality (VR) education game designed to teach new biology and biochemistry students about the human immune system. “Systems biology is something you can’t really see, and it’s not a hands-on subject, but it is a holistic tool that can help young minds understand how biological systems function,” says Dr. Shoemaker. “We decided to design the game to create a way for students to be able to visualize what they were studying.”In Vir-ed (which rhymes with “wired”), players follow a storyline and a series of mini-games while learning how viruses invade host cells, the basic biological mechanisms associated with infection, and how human cells detect viruses. As the game begins, the immersive technology casts the player in the role of the virus, determined to avoid the predatory white blood cells and find a juicy red blood cell to infect. “The first story shows you how a virus invades a cell, and the second shows you how a cell stops a virus,” explains Gregg. “Players unlock mini-games by playing through the story mode, and the mini-games require certain achievements to unlock trophies. Each trophy comes with a description and more information about a subject like “DNA” to help educate the player.”One of the Vir-ed mini-games follows a similar format to the memory game Simon. Players must remember the sequence of a ribonucleic acid (RNA) nucleotide, which consists of the nitrogenous bases adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil (AGCU). To complete the mini-game, the player must remember a random assembly of three to six nitrogenous bases with the ultimate goal of getting the order right for a total of 21 cumulative nucleotides. To develop the software for the game, the Pitt team worked with a nonprofit called Cacti Council—an educational organization that uses computer science to promote critical and creative thinking. A total of 17 people from the Cacti Council team worked on Vir-ed, including graphic designers, programmers, recording artists, and user experience (UX) designers.“Educational games are tricky,” says Jeremiah Blanchard, a Cacti Council founder. “They’re really an attempt to thread the needle of meeting the requirements for both a game and an educational tool. You have to find the points of overlap. If you do, it can really impact a student’s life in a positive way.”Vir-ed is already available on the Google Play Store and can be downloaded and viewed on an Android phone and any VR headset. Dr. Shoemaker and Gregg have almost finished adapting the game for Apple devices, and they are considering adding new features like augmented reality in the future.“The immediate next step will be to work with the school’s Engineering Education Resource Center to introduce the game to middle and high school students and get feedback on how it performs as an educational tool,” says Dr. Shoemaker. “Based on what we’ve seen so far, we expect positive response,” adds Blanchard.About the Immunosystems LabDr. Shoemaker leads the Shoemaker Immunosystems Lab at Pitt. He and his team of researchers use mathematical models and simulations to better understand immunity and health. By applying the engineering knowledge of the immune system gathered from these models, the team can develop new therapies to promote improved patient outcomes, patient-specific treatment, and immune optimization. ### Image above: Gameplay point of view of a player moving through a blood vessel as a virus. The wispy orbs are white blood cells, and the player loses life by running into one. Side image: A shooter game within Vir-ed in which the player has to combine the correct molecules to activate cGAMP--a molecule essential to detecting DNA in the cell.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Pitt researchers developed a VR game about viruses, but it wasn't easy to get onto the app store

Chemical & Petroleum

It's an arduous task to understand how the herpes virus spreads throughout the body. That's true whether you're a 10-year-old student or an engineer with a degree or two. "You don't ever get to visualize and actually see how the molecules interact with the cells," said Jason Shoemaker, an assistant professor in chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. "It's hard to visualize, even for engineers ... we design systems and sometimes have a hard time picturing how things exist in a biological system." In February, Mr. Shoemaker and the students in his research group called the Shoemaker Immonsystems Lab, began a nearly six-month journey to make these biological mechanisms easier to understand through gamification. Read the full story at the Post-Gazette.
Courtney Linder, Post-Gazette

Technology developed by Bioengineering's Dr. William Federspiel set for pivotal clinical trials

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (September 27, 2017) - ALung Technologies, Inc., today announced U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of its Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) to conduct a pivotal clinical trial of the Hemolung® Respiratory Assist System for the treatment of adults with severe acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The FDA’s approval of the IDE makes ALung’s VENT-AVOID Trial the first pivotal trial of extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal (ECCO2R) for treating patients with COPD exacerbations. “The achievement of FDA approval for initiation of the VENT-AVOID Trial is an important milestone towards making the Hemolung RAS and ECCO2R therapy available to US patients and their physicians,” said Peter DeComo, Chairman and CEO of ALung. “We believe that there is great potential for the Hemolung technology to facilitate ventilator avoidance, resulting in improved clinical outcomes and a lower cost of care through a reduction in length of stay in the intensive care unit.” The VENT-AVOID Trial is a prospective, multi-center, randomized, controlled, pivotal trial to validate the safety and efficacy of the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System for COPD patients experiencing an acute exacerbation requiring ventilatory support. Forty hospitals will enroll up to 800 patients in the trial. The study protocol is built around a state of the art adaptive statistical plan which will allow for PMA submission when early success criteria are reached, potentially with as few as 300 patients enrolled. COPD patients suffering severe exacerbations will be eligible for the study if they are either 1) failing non-invasive ventilation and presenting a high risk of being intubated and mechanically ventilated or 2) have required intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation due to acute respiratory failure. Serving as the study principal investigator is Dr. Nicholas Hill, MD, Chief, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Hill is an international leader in pulmonary critical care medicine, having led studies which established non-invasive ventilation as the standard of care for COPD exacerbations. In addition to the US-based VENT-AVOID study, The Hemolung RAS is also being studied in a landmark pivotal study for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) as part of the 1,120-patient REST Trial in the United Kingdom. “Our commitment to clinical science runs very deep,” added Mr. DeComo. “We will soon be the only company participating in not just one, but two major pivotal trials validating the safety and efficacy of extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal therapy provided by the Hemolung RAS.” ALung worked collaboratively with the FDA under its Expedited Access Pathway (EAP) program to obtain IDE approval. The Expedited Access Pathway is a new FDA program aimed to facilitate more rapid patient access to breakthrough technologies intended to treat or diagnose life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions. ALung will continue to collaborate with the FDA during study enrollment and through the PMA process. COPD affects 30 million Americans1 and is the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cancer and heart disease.2 Acute exacerbations, defined as a sudden worsening of COPD symptoms, are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in COPD patients. For patients with severe exacerbations, high levels of carbon dioxide can result in respiratory failure and the need for intubation and mechanical ventilation as life saving measures. Unfortunately, mechanical ventilation is associated with many side effects, and in-hospital mortality remains as high as 30%. ECCO2R therapy with the Hemolung RAS allows carbon dioxide to be removed from the blood independently of the lungs with the aim of facilitating the avoidance or reduction of intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation. ALung was founded in 1997 by Dr. William Federspiel, Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and the late Dr. Brack Hattler, a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon. Dr. Federspiel and his team at the University’s Medical Devices Laboratory, part of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, developed the original Hemolung technology which was subsequently licensed by ALung for commercial development. The Hemolung RAS has been approved outside of the United States since 2013 and is commercially available in major European markets. ### About ALung Technologies ALung Technologies, Inc. is a privately-held Pittsburgh-based developer and manufacturer of innovative lung assist devices. Founded in 1997 as a spin-out of the University of Pittsburgh, ALung has developed the Hemolung RAS as a dialysis-like alternative or supplement to mechanical ventilation. ALung is backed by Philips, UPMC Enterprises, Abiomed, The Accelerator Fund, Allos Ventures, Birchmere Ventures, Blue Tree Ventures, Eagle Ventures, Riverfront Ventures, West Capital Advisors, and other individual investors. For more information about ALung and the Hemolung RAS, visit www.alung.com. For more information about the VENT-AVOID Trial, visit https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03255057. The Hemolung RAS is an Investigational Device and limited by United States law to investigational use. This press release may contain forward-looking statements, which, if not based on historical facts, involve current assumptions and forecasts as well as risks and uncertainties. Our actual results may differ materially from the results or events stated in the forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, certain events not within the Company’s control. Events that could cause results to differ include failure to meet ongoing developmental and manufacturing timelines, changing GMP requirements, the need for additional capital requirements, risks associated with regulatory approval processes, adverse changes to reimbursement for the Company’s products/services, and delays with respect to market acceptance of new products/services and technologies. Other risks may be detailed from time to time, but the Company does not attempt to revise or update its forward-looking statements even if future experience or changes make it evident that any projected events or results expressed or implied therein will not be realized.
Scott Morley, Sr. Vice President of Market Development, ALung Technologies, Inc.

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