Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Join With Us In Celebrating Our 2020 Graduating Class! 


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



Nov
19
2020

Pitt Researchers to Join NSF Materials Center Studying Two-Dimensional Metals

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 19, 2020) — The Nanoionics and Electronics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has received $557,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its work investigating a new type of two-dimensional material. The six-year funding will enable Pitt researchers to explore atomically thin metals, also known as two-dimensional (2D) metals.  The project is part of the National Science Foundation's Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC), at the Penn State University Center for Nanoscale Science. At Pitt, the project, “Two-dimensional Polar Metals and Heterostructures,” is led by Associate Professor, Susan Fullerton, and Visiting Research Assistant Professor Ke Xu, both in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “Our collaborators at Penn State have invented a novel way to confine metals into 2D sheets using graphene - a single atomic layer of carbon atoms,” explained Fullerton.  “Here at Pitt, we will use ions to control charge in these 2D metals, which we expect to reveal all sorts of new and unique properties owing to their extreme confinement.” The group will work with researchers at Penn State, led by Joshua Robinson, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Jun Zhu, Professor of Physics. Together, they will pioneer new methods of encasing 2D metals in graphene, which will enhance its optical properties and make it useful for applications in biosensing and quantum devices. "Tuning the charge with ions provides a possible pathway to strongly tune electron oscillations in the 2D metals - something that is very difficult to do with conventional approaches," explained Xu. "We aim to develop new, nonlinear optical materials in this collaboration, which could benefit the development of ultrafast switches, optical computers, and sensors."
Maggie Pavlick
Nov
9
2020

ChemE Student Taylor Daniels Receives AIChE Donald F. & Mildred Topp Othmer Scholarship

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 9, 2020) — Taylor Daniels, a senior studying chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has received the prestigious 2019-2020 Donald F. & Mildred Topp Othmer Scholarship. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to 15 AIChE student members annually based on their academic achievement and involvement in student chapter activities. “I am so honored to have received the 2020 Donald F. & Mildred Topp Othmer Scholarship from AIChE and am excited to attend my first AIChE Annual Student Conference this month to virtually receive my award,” said Daniels. “I hope to continue my involvement in AIChE as I begin my career by continuing to attend conferences, building my professional network through AIChE, and also taking advantage of training and continuing education credits.” Daniels joined Pitt AIChE in her sophomore year and became the chapter’s Vice President of Internal Affairs in 2019. “My involvement in Pitt AIChE has allowed me to build my network among undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty and staff within the Chemical Engineering Department,” noted Daniels. “Being VP of Internal Affairs last year, I was able to grow my leadership skills and also utilize my knowledge and experience from other leadership positions on Pitt’s campus to help AIChE succeed throughout the year.” In addition to her work with Pitt AIChE, Daniels was involved in several other student organizations, including the Society of Women Engineers, Omega Chi Epsilon Chemical Engineering Honor Society, and the Sigma Tau Delta sorority. In the summer 2019 semester, Daniels worked in the Lubrizol Process Intensification Lab with Goetz Veser, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt. She completed a co-op rotation with Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and an internship with Williams, a midstream natural gas company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After she graduates this semester, Daniels will start her career with Williams in their Engineering Development Program, where she will rotate through three year-long positions, beginning with a facility engineering role within the Ohio River Supply Hub Technical Services Organization. “I’m so impressed and proud of Taylor’s accomplishments in her time at Pitt and know she is headed for great success in her career,” said Taryn Bayles, vice chair of undergraduate education and professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and Pitt AIChE faculty advisor. “She continues to be an excellent representative for the Swanson School, and this recognition is well-deserved.” The award will be presented virtually at the AIChE Annual Student Conference on Sunday, Nov. 15.
Maggie Pavlick
Nov
2
2020

‘Zooming’ to the Finish Line

Chemical & Petroleum

UPDATE (Nov. 17, 2020) — The Pitt Chem-E-Car team competed virtually at the AIChE Annual Student Conference’s International Chem-E-Car Competition on Nov. 15. After noticing the fuel cell was malfunctioning in October’s regional competition, the team had to redesign the car around a different propulsion mechanism—a lead acid battery—just 24 hours before the competition. With their new design approved, the team completed their runs, bringing home the Sportsman Award for their perseverance and the First Place Chem-E-Car Video Award. “I am incredibly proud of the team—they faced so many challenges and obstacles this year, with limited time to work on the car due to COVID-19,” remarked the team’s advisor Taryn Bayles, vice chair of undergraduate education and professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt. “I am most impressed with their determination to completely redesign their car less than 24 hours before the competition.” ### PITTSBURGH (Nov. 2, 2020) — Preparing for a car race without knowing how far you have to go is a difficult test of skill. It’s even more demanding when you have to compete virtually. A team of students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering met that challenge in October when their model car – propelled by a chemical mix of their own creation – finished fourth in the regional leg of the Chem-E-Car Competition, qualifying them for the international finals on Nov. 15. The annual Chem-E-Car Competition, sponsored by AIChE, the global association of chemical engineers, requires student teams to create a small car with chemical propulsion and stopping mechanisms that allow it to travel a specified distance and carry a payload (0-500 mL of water). While team members construct the vehicle ahead of time, they only find out the specific requirements for distance and payload an hour before the competition. This year, the cars needed to travel 45 feet and carry 0 mL of water—and for the first time, they had to do so remotely. The team’s car, named “Hydro-Man,” was propelled by a hydrogen fuel cell. The car itself looks like an open, clear box sitting atop its chassis and four wheels. The team used an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen, which is stored in a balloon until the car is ready to be powered. To stop, the car has a “chemical circuit breaker,” a magnesium ribbon that breaks the electrical current and stops the car. The team calculated the precise amount of each material to ensure the car traveled the necessary distance and stopped as close to the finish line as possible. The calculations also had to account for the empty payload the car would carry for this competition. Prior to COVID-19 quarantines and in-person labs, the team would use the spring semester to design and build the car for the fall competition. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the competition to be held virtually, leaving teams to set up and record their submission themselves. A team’s 20-30 members would typically have a whole semester to work together in the lab designing the cars. This year, the team had one week in a lab that could only safely accommodate 8-10 members at a time. Team member Clay Countess, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, praised Taryn Bayles, the team’s faculty advisor, for her commitment to the competition. “Dr. Bayles had to be there with us in the lab the whole time we were building,” he said. “I’m proud of what we did. We were very happy with how we managed to pull this off.” Prior to the competition, all teams had to complete safety training and testing and submit an engineering documentation package. Teams also had to produce a poster detailing the research they conducted for the creation of their car, then pass the safety inspection to ensure that their car will compete safely. This year, Joaquin Rodriguez, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Pitt, served as the safety inspector, inspecting the car on video and submitting the findings to the judges. “We had to do a month’s work in five days,” said Nick Hages, team member and senior majoring in chemical engineering. “After that, we had a month to prepare for the virtual competition, and the team members who couldn’t physically be in the lab prepared for the other elements of the competition, like the poster competition.” On competition day, the team had to set up their start and stop lines, as well as a designated work station where members could work with the chemicals and prepare the car. “Luckily a few of us had gone to competitions before, so we knew how things were usually set up,” said Hages. “All in all, this was the best we could hope for,” added Countess. The in-person members of the team, with majors in Chemical Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering, included Clay Countess, Nick Hages, Kevin Padgett, Mor Shimshi, Matt Petrosky, Todd Ackerman, Zach Sokoloff, Anthony Hill and Sarah Borger. Shiva Yagobian was the team’s designated remote member, in charge of checking camera angles to get a clear recording of the car’s run. This is the second year in a row that the team has qualified for the International Competition, finishing 12th overall and winning the Chem-E-Car Poster Competition last year. Pitt’s team will join around 40 other teams to compete at the AIChE Annual Meeting, which will take place virtually on Nov. 15. “I’m so proud of what the team has accomplished, especially under such challenging conditions,” said Bayles, vice chair of undergraduate education and professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt. “Their hard work paid off, and I look forward to seeing them succeed again at the International Competition.”
Maggie Pavlick
Oct
27
2020

Let’s (Not) Stick Together

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Oct. 27, 2020) — If you’ve ever had a cold, you know that too much mucus can be an annoyance, but mucus plays a very important role in the body. The respiratory system creates mucus as part of the immune system, meant to trap inhaled bacteria, viruses, and dirt so they can be removed before causing infection. However, for people with the genetic disorder cystic fibrosis (CF), the mucus that their bodies produce is thicker and stickier, leading to an increased risk from infection and decreased ability to breathe over time. New research led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering examines the properties of the mucus of CF patients and the role it plays in a pathogens’ ability to survive. The new information could have important implications for CF treatment. [Related: Learn how the new INHALE Lab will help CF patients avoid water-borne pathogens] The researchers examined nonmucoid (PANT) and mucoid (PASL) strains of P. aeruginosa, a common pathogen that infects the lungs. P. aeruginosa adapts to the host environment mutating from a non-mucoid phenotype (PANT) to a mucoid phenotype (PASL). This mutation in P. aeruginosa creates a protective film of mucus around the bacteria thereby forming a more hydrated and slimy biofilm in the mucus. “Think of the cells like grains of rice. PANT cells are like basmati rice, while PASL cells are like sushi rice: coated in such a way that they stick together when they’re compressed,” explained Tagbo Niepa, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, whose lab led the study. Niepa also has appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. “We can measure how investigational drugs can alter the sticky nature of the coating that pathogens such as P. aeruginosa create upon mutation.” This mutation gives the mucus unique properties that contribute to increased antibiotic resistance. It also shields them against phagocytic cells, which help the immune system clear out dead or harmful cells by ingesting them. In order to study these properties, the researchers used pendant drop elastometry to compress and expand the biofilm that the cells formed. They also assessed the transcriptional profile of the cells to correlate the film's mechanics to cell physiology. “This is the first time that the pendant drop elastometry technique has been used to study the mechanics of these cells. We demonstrate that these techniques can be used to investigate the efficacy of mucolytic drugs—drugs that are used to break down the film of mucus that the cells are making,” noted Niepa. “This technique could be powerful for investigating those agents, to see if they have the anticipated effect.” The paper, “Material properties of interfacial films of mucoid and nonmucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates,” (DOI: 10.1016/j.actbio.2020.10.010) was published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia. It was authored by Sricharani Rao Balmuri, Nicholas G. Waters, and Tagbo H.R. Niepa from Pitt, and Jonas Hegemann and Jan Kierfeld from the Universität Dortmund in Dortmund, Germany.
Maggie Pavlick
Oct
21
2020

Pitt Engineering Alumnus Dedicates Major Gift Toward Undergraduate Tuition Support

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Nuclear, Diversity, Investing Now

PITTSBURGH (October 21, 2020) …  An eight-figure donation from an anonymous graduate of the Swanson School of Engineering and spouse to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering in their estate planning to provide financial aid to undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Pitt EXCEL Program. Announced today by Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and US Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II, the donors' bequest will provide tuition support for underprivileged or underrepresented engineering students who are residents of the United States of America and in need of financial aid. “I am extremely grateful for this gift, which supports the University of Pittsburgh’s efforts to tackle one of society’s greatest challenges—the inequity of opportunity,” Gallagher said. “Put into action, this commitment will help students from underrepresented groups access a world-class Pitt education and—in doing so—help elevate the entire field of engineering.” “Our dedication as engineers is to create new knowledge that benefits the human condition, and that includes educating the next generation of engineers. Our students’ success informs our mission, and I am honored and humbled that our donors are vested in helping to expand the diversity of engineering students at Pitt,” Martin noted. “Often the most successful engineers are those who have the greatest need or who lack access, and support such as this is critical to expanding our outreach and strengthening the role of engineers in society.” A Gift to Prepare the Workforce of the Future Martin noted that the gift is timely because it was made shortly after Chancellor Gallagher’s call this past summer to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all, especially for the University’s future students. The gift – and the donors’ passion for the Swanson School – show that there is untapped potential as well as significant interest in addressing unmet need for students who represent a demographic shift in the American workforce.  “By 2050, when the U.S. will have a minority-majority population, two-thirds of the American workforce will require a post-secondary education,” Martin explained. “We are already reimagining how we deliver engineering education and research, and generosity such as this will lessen the financial burden that students will face to prepare for that future workforce.” A Half-Century of IMPACT on Engineering Equity In 1969 the late Dr. Karl Lewis (1/15/1936-3/5/2019) founded the IMPACT Program at the University of Pittsburgh to encourage minority and financially and culturally disadvantaged students to enter and graduate from the field of engineering. The six-week program prepared incoming first year students through exposure to university academic life, development of study skills, academic and career counseling, and coursework to reinforce strengths or remedy weaknesses. Many Pitt alumni today still note the role that Lewis and IMPACT had on their personal and professional lives.  Under Lewis’ leadership, IMPACT sparked the creation of two award-winning initiatives within the Swanson School’s Office of Diversity: INVESTING NOW, a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM majors. Pitt EXCEL, a comprehensive undergraduate diversity program committed to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of academically excellent engineering undergraduates, particularly individuals from groups historically underrepresented in the field. “Dr. Lewis, like so many of his generation, started a movement that grew beyond one person’s idea,” said Yvette Wisher, Director of Pitt EXCEL. “Anyone who talks to today’s EXCEL students can hear the passion of Dr. Lewis and see how exceptional these young people will be as engineers and individuals. They and the hundreds of students who preceded them are the reason why Pitt EXCEL is game-changer for so many.”  Since its inception, Pitt EXCEL has helped more than 1,500 students earn their engineering degrees and become leaders and change agents in their communities. Ms. Wisher says the most important concept she teaches students who are enrolled in the program is to give back however they can once they graduate—through mentorship, volunteerism, philanthropy, or advocacy.  Supporting the Change Agents of Tomorrow “Pitt EXCEL is a home - but more importantly, a family. The strong familial bonds within Pitt EXCEL are what attracted me to Swanson as a graduating high school senior, what kept me going throughout my time in undergrad and what keeps me energized to this very day as a PhD student,” explained Isaiah M. Spencer Williams, BSCE ’19 and currently a pre-doctoral student in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Pitt EXCEL is a family where iron sharpens iron and where we push each other to be the best that we can be every day. Beyond that, it is a space where you are not only holistically nurtured and supported but are also groomed to pave the way for and invest into those who are coming behind you.  “Pitt EXCEL, and by extension, Dr. Lewis' legacy and movement are the reasons why I am the leader and change agent that I am today. This generous gift will ensure a bright future for underrepresented engineering students in the Pitt EXCEL Program, and will help to continue the outstanding development of the change agents of tomorrow.”  Setting a Foundation for Community Support “Next year marks the 51st anniversary of IMPACT/EXCEL as well as the 175th year of engineering at Pitt and the 50th anniversary of Benedum Hall,” Dean Martin said. “The Swanson School of Engineering represents 28,000 alumni around the world, who in many ways are life-long students of engineering beyond the walls of Benedum, but who share pride in being Pitt Engineers. “The key to our future success is working together as a global community to find within ourselves how we can best support tomorrow’s students,” Martin concluded. “We should all celebrate this as a foundational cornerstone gift for greater engagement.” ###

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