Message from Phillip Savage, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering
On March 11, when the University announced its plans for protecting the health of the Penn State community, staff members had just a day or two to figure out how they were going to do their jobs while working from their homes and gather the equipment to do so. Faculty members had just the few remaining days of spring break to figure out how to pivot rapidly to exclusively online instruction (which most of us had never done) and working from home. Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars had to quickly shift to working remotely on their research projects, which is especially difficult for experimentalists, as offices and labs on campus were closed.
Many in our community had the added responsibilities of child care and home schooling as day cares and schools closed. Undergraduate students were advised not to return to campus after Spring Break. Most had to come up with new living arrangements and adapt to an online-only world of interactions with each other and faculty and staff for the second half of the semester.
Given these new stresses related to health, jobs, family, education, and daily life, the response of the students, staff, and faculty in our department has been nothing short of magnificent.
Everyone worked diligently, worked together, helped one another, shared newly discovered resources, displayed empathy and extended grace. I couldn't be any prouder of what our chemical engineering community, including alumni, has accomplished by completing the spring semester and maintaining high standards for education and research. It has truly been a season of "We Are" moments with our entire community working together "for the glory of Old State."
I trust you will enjoy the stories included in this issue of our e-newsletter. You can read about our first-ever virtual graduation celebration, how our faculty moved the senior unit-ops lab to an effective online format, several research advances made by our students and faculty, and accomplishments by our students and alumni. One particularly sad alumni note is the passing of Dr. Walter Robb ('48 ChE), who was a victim of the novel coronavirus disease. Walt was a regular visitor to campus, a great friend to the department, and strong supporter and donor for chemical engineering and Penn State. We will miss him.