Pitt | Swanson Engineering

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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 startup Pawprint Oxygen nets collaboration with MWI Animal Health

Alumni, Chemical & Petroleum

Aeronics Inc., co-founded by alumnus Blake Dubé BSChE '17, announced a collaboration with MWI Animal Health to provide veterinarians with the Pawprint Oxygen Canister System for companion animals. Read more at LinkedIn.

60 Researchers from the Swanson School of Engineering Ranked Among Top 2% of Scientists Worldwide

Accolades, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS, Electrical & Computer, Civil & Environmental, Industrial, Honors & Awards

According to a new report by Stanford University, 60 researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering are ranked in the top 2 percent of scientists in the world. The report covered scientists globally from a wide range of fields, and the ranking is based on citations from Scopus, assessing scientists for career-long citation impact up until the end of 2019 and for citation impact during the single calendar year 2019. More information on the ranking method can be found here.The full list can be found here.“I am incredibly proud of the breadth and depth of our primary and secondary faculty within this survey, both overall and as a segment of the University of Pittsburgh,” noted James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “Receiving this external validation is a testament to their research and dedication to their respective fields.”The researchers from the Swanson School of Engineering are:BioengineeringX. Tracy CuiWilliam FederspielPrashant KumtaPatrick LoughlinDavid VorpStephen F. BadylakMichael BoningerR. A. CooperJoseph FurmanJorg GerlachThomas GilbertMark GladwinJohn KellumKacey G. MarraJ. Peter RubinWalter SchneiderIan SigalAlexander StarYoram VodovotzWilliam WagnerJames H.C. WangAlan WellsPeter WipfDouglass Lansing TaylorChemical and Petroleum EngineeringAnna C. BalazsEric J. BeckmanRobert EnickGerald D. HolderJ. Karl JohnsonJoseph McCarthySachin VelankarGötz VeserIrving Wender (deceased)Civil and Environmental EngineeringAmir AlaviAndrew P. BungerKent A. HarriesPiervincenzo RizzoLuis VallejoRadisav VidicFred MosesElectrical and Computer EngineeringHeng HuangAlexis KwasinskiKartik MohanramErvin SejdićMingui SunRami MelhemRob RutenbarIndustrial EngineeringLarry ShumanMechanical Engineering and Materials ScienceWilliam (Buddy) ClarkPaul OhodnickiG. Paolo GaldiPeyman GiviBrian GleesonScott X. MaoGerald H. MeierWissam A. SaidiGuofeng WangXudong ZhangCarey BalabanFreddie H. Fu

Eco-Village Seeks to Recirculate Pittsburgh’s Waste

Student Profiles, Civil & Environmental, Chemical & Petroleum, Sustainability, Banner

Think of waste as a valuable resource. This is the key concept that University of Pittsburgh undergraduate Dana Vidic took from her sustainability capstone project in the Swanson School of Engineering.She and her team developed a plan for an “Eco-Village” that minimizes waste by efficiently reusing materials and reframing how people think about consumption. They delivered a proposal to the City of Pittsburgh as part of its Roadmap to Zero Waste, an effort to make the area an autonomous zero-waste city by 2030.“The goal of our project was to create a framework for a sustainable city and to promote responsible consumption and production amongst its residents,” said Vidic (CEE ‘21), a new civil and environmental engineering alumna. “We wanted to incorporate a community circular economy that centers on minimizing waste, maximizing reuse, and attempting to mimic nature’s own regenerative and cyclical processes.”In addition to Vidic, the multidisciplinary team included Corrine Koziel, a neuroscience undergraduate student; Mel Marciesky, a chemical engineering graduate student; Delia Mercer, an environmental science undergraduate student; and Darien Strickler, an architecture undergraduate student.“The amount of energy and effort that goes into creating things just to eventually bury it is ridiculously backward,” Marciesky said. “The most successful cities not only encourage a circular economy but mandate it.”They designed and modeled the Eco-Village with inspiration from other U.S. and European cities. The first step in executing this project involves creating a facility in the center of town to sort waste.“What currently happens is that waste is transported throughout the day, in gas-guzzling trucks, to two landfills outside of the city,” Vidic explained. “In this new model, the trash could be transported to a city hub, where it is sorted for reuse while the remainder is transported to the landfills.”From there, the team broke down Pittsburgh’s waste stream and focused their sorting efforts on the areas that would most benefit the region, including construction and demolition waste, which represents 67 percent of the U.S. waste stream. They will also manage organic waste and process these materials with milling equipment or an anaerobic digester. The resulting products could provide the city with renewable energy, soil, mulch, fertilizer, and non-hazardous wood mass.The overall plan includes a larger community park that promotes a culture of sustainability and features work from local artists, created with reused materials. ”The movement toward accepting a new way of looking at trash is to create a way for the community to be involved in the activity of recycling,” Strickler said. “For us, we believed that the best way to do this was to show that a community can not only coexist with recycled materials, but thrive with them, in a facility that makes it all possible.”They created a 3D video tour of their proposed design.“Creating an Eco-Village in Pittsburgh would both mitigate waste and boost the economy — not just for the city, but the entire surrounding region,” Vidic said. “It is the next logical step in the battle against climate change.“This project was definitely an eye-opening experience,” she added. “In a classroom, you learn how things function in a perfect world, but gleaning knowledge from industry experts gives you a different perspective. It helps you see how things function in the real-world and consider factors that you normally wouldn’t think about in a classroom setting.”The group included future steps in their proposal and suggested that the next cohort of sustainability capstone students continue the project and present a more robust framework to the City of Pittsburgh.

Shining a light on methane transformation

Grants, Chemical & Petroleum

The growth of the hydrofracturing (“fracking”) industry in the U.S. has increased the production of methane, whose uses as both a fuel and feedstock are extremely valuable in the petrochemical industry. But since most fracking occurs in rural and isolated areas far from production facilities, the cost to store and transport methane is very high. Since methane is a significant greenhouse gas, it is being flared as it is released into the atmosphere resulting in approximately $16 billion of value loss annually.However, there may be a way to use light to economically convert the methane on-site into valuable chemicals, not too dissimilar from how a plant transforms the sun’s energy into fuel.Chemical engineering researchers from the University of Pittsburgh recently received a $110,000 New Directions Grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund to explore this possibility and reduce methane loss and waste.“We are very excited to start building this new research direction in our laboratory. Using light as an energy source, we can convert methane to valuable products, while reducing the energy cost associated with its chemical conversion,” explained Giannis Mpourmpakis, Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Integrating photocatalysis with traditional thermal catalysis has the potential to advance shale gas utilization and turn a waste by-product and greenhouse gas into a valuable resource.”According to Mpourmpakis, who leads the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELa) at Pitt, traditional thermal catalytic conversion of methane to value-added fuels and chemicals is very energy demanding, making it cost-prohibitive at typically remote fracking sites. However, research has identified metal-oxide photocatalysts that can convert methane under mild conditions by photoactivating C-H bonds with visible or near-ultraviolet illumination.Unfortunately, the atomic-level mechanisms of this conversion process are not clearly understood, and traditional lab experimentation would result in costly trial and error. Mpourmpakis and the CANELa group however have successfully used computational modeling to simulate catalytic processes and test numerous potential catalysts and their reactions rapidly and at a tremendously lower cost. The grant will allow his lab to develop a more robust understanding of photocatalysis and the mechanisms necessary to convert methane.“Even though it’s a by-product of the hydrofracturing process, methane is a valuable building block for chemicals but must be burned off rather than utilized so that its raw form doesn’t pollute the atmosphere,” Mpourmpakis said. “Yet the ability to capture methane and immediately convert it into a fuel or value-added chemical would greatly reduce its environmental impact and enhance its industrial use.”###

ChemE Undergrad Cailyn Hall Receives PennACE JoAnne Day Student of the Year Award

Accolades, Student, Chemical & Petroleum

Cailyn Hall, a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, received the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Employers (PennACE) JoAnne Day Student of the Year Award for the STEM category. PennACE recognizes the achievements and contributions made by undergraduate students enrolled at member institutions who have completed an internship or co-op assignment. Hall completed four co-op work rotations with Sherwin-Williams/Valspar during her time at Pitt. She worked directly with engineers on over 10 capital projects that directly impacted the company and drew from her interests in Chemical Engineering and Supply Chain Management.After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a certificate in supply chain management, Hall began her full-time job as a Process Engineer at McCormick and Company’s Flavor Manufacturing Center outside of Baltimore, Md.Each recipient of the JoAnne Day Student of the Year Award receives a check for $500 and a plaque. Students must submit an essay about their experience and resume. Additionally, the application was supported by a support statement from the intern site supervisor and university faculty or staff.The Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Employers is a collaborative organization of career development and recruitment professionals that provides professional growth and networking opportunities designed to enhance career development practices for Pennsylvania college and university students and graduates.

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