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.


Postdoctoral Research, Controlled Release and Biomimetics Research Laboratories (Little Lab)

Chemical & Petroleum, Open Positions

Applications are invited for a full time Postdoctoral Research position in the in the Controlled Release and Biomimetics Research Laboratories (http://littlelab.pitt.edu) at the University of Pittsburgh. Areas of interest for this position include controlled drug delivery, micro and nanotechnology, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, tumor detection and treatment, and control and guidance of the immune system to address diseases (e.g. periodontitis, dry eye disease, contact dermatitis, or transplant rejection) all with a strong translational focus. Candidates should have a PhD in Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Materials Science or a related subject, demonstrate an academic record of excellence by high quality peer reviewed publications, show the capacity of independent, innovative research and have a strong interest in interdisciplinary and translational research. A track record of grant writing and funding is highly desirable. Successful candidates are expected to integrate well within the existing team, actively collaborate with other lab members on existing projects as well as develop original projects at the forefront of current scientific research. Salary will be commensurate with experience. Applicants must submit curriculum vitae, a cover letter describing their career and research goals, and a list of three professional references with contact information via email to Professor Steven Little at srlittle@pitt.edu. To receive full consideration, application materials should be received by August 1st, 2016. The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.
Author: Riccardo Gottardi

Pitt researchers receive $1.54 million NIH grant to facilitate fabrication of vascular grafts with artificial stem cells

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (June 29, 2016) … The National Institutes of Health have awarded David Vorp, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering and Associate Dean for Research of the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, and colleagues with a grant worth more than $1.54 million to fund their study investigating artificial stem cells in the development of engineered vascular grafts. Some current regenerative medicine approaches use mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) harvested from the patient to help rebuild or repair damaged or diseased tissues. Dr. Vorp and his team have pioneered the use of MSCs in the development of tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs), which may be effective in small diameter arterial bypass procedures or arteriovenous access for dialysis. However, MSCs taken from patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease, such as the elderly and diabetics, may be dysfunctional. Furthermore, the use of harvested cells that require extended culture expansion also runs the risk of cellular contamination or transformation, as well as high costs and substantial waiting time before a graft can be made and implanted. “Fully functional human MSCs secrete a host of biochemicals, including those that prevent blood clotting and those that ‘call’ into the TEVGs important cells from the host, such as inflammatory cells, smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells,” said Vorp. “We have found that MSCs from diabetics, for example, are relatively ineffective in yielding a successful TEVG compared to MSCs from non-diabetics.  Considering that diabetics make up a large proportion of patients who need bypass grafts, we needed to find an alternative means to achieve our goal for this significant population.”   To answer this challenge, the research team has developed artificial stem cells (artMSCs) that are created by encapsulating the veritable cocktail of biochemicals secreted by normally functioning MSCs in culture into biodegradable microspheres that are similar in size to actual MSCs. “By ‘tuning’ or adjusting the degradation rate of the microspheres, we can replicate the release of these biochemicals by real, fully-functional MSCs,” said Vorp. He and his colleagues will then seed the artMSCs into porous, tubular scaffolds and implant them in a rat model as they have done with MSCs in fabricating TEVGs. The study, entitled “Artificial Stem Cells for Vascular Tissue Engineering,” aims to accelerate the clinical translation of the team’s TEVG technology. This will be achieved, according to Vorp, “both by making the technology applicable to all patients – even those with dysfunctional MSCs – and by reducing the regulatory barriers associated with the need for culture-expanding cells to the numbers necessary to fabricate a TEVG.” Vorp is joined on this study by Pitt colleagues Steven Little, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Chemical Engineering; William Wagner, Professor of Surgery and Director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine; Morgan Fedorchak, Assistant Professor of Opthalmology; and Justin Weinbaum, Research Assistant Professor of Bioengineering. ###
Author: Matthew Cichowicz, Contributing Writer and Editor

ACS awards petrochemical research grant to ChemE Assistant Professor Giannis Mpourmpakis

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (June 20, 2016) … Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, received a $110,000 grant from the American Chemical Society (ACS) for computer modeling research to investigate the conversion of ethane, propane, butane and other alkanes used in the petrochemical industry. The study, “Identifying Structure-Activity Relationships for the Dehydrogenation of Alkanes on Oxides,” will look to gain a fundamental understanding of the dehydrogenation of small hydrocarbons to olefins on metal oxides under experimental conditions. “Olefins are the building blocks for the production of chemicals and plastics,” said Mpourmpakis. “We can avoid the time and money it takes performing experiments in a traditional chemical lab through computer simulations and then design new catalysts, again, without the need to perform tedious experiments.” Pitt researchers will attempt to identify structure-activity relationships (SARs)—the relationships between a molecule’s three-dimensional structure and its catalytic activity—on metal oxides. Although much research has been done on the SARs on metals, the scientific community has little understanding of these relationships on metal oxides. At the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab at Pitt, Mpourmpakis and his team have been successful investigating the dehydration of simple alcohols on various metal oxides. Mpourmpakis’ previous study, “ Structure-activity relationships on metal-oxides: alcohol dehydration,” outlined a simple but powerful model to allow researchers to easily test different alcohols and metal-oxide catalysts according to their dehydration activity and appeared as a cover article of Catalysis Science & Technology published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. “We are building on our previous knowledge of alcohol dehydration on metal oxides and applying the understanding we have of in-silico experimentation to a different scientific problem: the alkane dehydrogenation,” said Mpourmpakis. The ACS will designate Mpourmpakis’ grant as a Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) Grant. DNI grants promote the careers of young faculty by supporting research of high scientific caliber and enhancing the career opportunities of their undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral associates, through the research experience. ### Pictured above: Members of the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (C.A.N.E.LA.) including Natalie Austin, Dr. Mpourmpakis, Pavlo Kostetskyy, Michael Taylor and Xi Peng.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Four Pitt students among select recipients of Department of Energy scholarships and fellowships for nuclear-related research

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (May 26, 2016) … Two undergraduate students and two graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have been named scholars and fellows, respectively, of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). The students are among 57 undergraduate scholars and 33 graduate fellows to receive more than $5 million to pursue nuclear energy-related disciplines at universities across the country. Since 2009, the Energy Department has awarded over $33 million to more than 600 students for nuclear energy-related scholarships and fellowships. The undergraduate scholarship winners, Bodhisatwa “Bodhi” Biswas (chemical engineering) and Miriam Rathbun (engineering science) will receive a $7,500 scholarship. The graduate fellowship recipients, Jacob Farber and Lee Maccarone (both mechanical engineering) will receive up to $50,000 annually over the next three years. The graduate fellowships will also include $5,000 toward a summer internship at a U.S. national laboratory or other approved facility to strengthen the ties between students and the Department’s nuclear energy research programs. The selected students will study a breadth of critical nuclear energy issues, from fuel cycle sustainability to reactor efficiency and design.“The NEUP scholars and fellows program is extremely competitive, and so we’re very proud to have four recipients this year,” said Daniel Cole, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of the Stephen R. Tritch Program in Nuclear Engineering at Pitt. “This is the fourth year in a row that our students have been recognized, which reflects highly on both their academic excellence and our program’s strengths.”About NEUPThe U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy initiated Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) in 2009 to consolidate its university support under one program NEUP funds nuclear energy research and equipment upgrades at U.S. colleges and universities, and provides student educational support. NEUP plays a key role in helping the Department of Energy accomplish its mission of leading the nation's investment in the development and exploration of advanced nuclear science and technology. As stated in its Nuclear Energy Roadmap, the Department promotes nuclear energy as a resource capable of meeting the nation's energy, environmental and national security needs by resolving technical, cost, safety, security, and proliferation resistance through research, development and demonstration. For more information, visit www.neup.gov.About Pitt's Nuclear Engineering ProgramPitt’s nuclear engineering program, offered through the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, is the only undergraduate and graduate program of its kind in western Pennsylvania. Established in 2006, the program develops relevant curricula in concert with industry leaders and is supported with grants from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Pittsburgh region hosts one of the highest concentrations of nuclear-power-related companies and expertise, including FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, which operates the Beaver Valley Power Station nuclear power plant in Shippingport; Bechtel Bettis, Inc.; and Westinghouse Electric Company. ###


NSF Grant Funds Study to Develop a Transistor Based on Two-Dimensional Crystals to Lower the Energy Consumption of Electronics

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (May 19, 2016) … Two University of Pittsburgh researchers in the Swanson School of Engineering received a $496,272 grant from the National Science Foundation to study two-dimensional semiconductors with the goal of demonstrating a switch that requires less power than conventional silicon-based transistors. “As electronic devices continue to become more integrated into our daily lives, more energy is required to power these devices,” said Susan Fullerton, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and principle investigator of the study. “On a large scale, decreasing the power requirements of electronics would impact global energy consumption.” Eric Beckman, the George M. Bevier Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, will join Fullerton as co-principle investigator of the study, “A New Approach to Explore the Semiconductor-to-Metal Phase Transition in Two-Dimensional (2D) Crystals Using Ionomers.” The individual layers of 2D crystals can be isolated to make electronic devices that are a single atom or molecule thick. The semiconductor research community has been studying these materials extensively for the past decade as a potential low-voltage replacement for traditional complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) electronics. The key is triggering the material to switch very abruptly from a state in which the flow of charge is restricted (insulator) to a state in which charge can flow easily (conductor) and to do this at low voltage. Fullerton and Beckman will use a type of polymer electrolyte called an ionomer to induce this abrupt switching in the 2D crystal with an applied field. Theoretical predictions indicate that the material can switch states from an insulator to a conductor when a sufficient amount of strain is applied, and Fullerton and Beckman will deliver that strain at low voltage by custom-synthesized ionomers. Beyond nanoelectronics for logic, the research will contribute to the development of materials and phase change devices that respond to electrical, chemical or strain stimuli, with potential application in brain-inspired computing and artificial synapses. ### Pictured above: Dr. Beckman (left) with Dr. Fullerton in the Fullerton Group Lab
Matt Cichowicz, University Communications Contributing Writer and Editor

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