May/June 2020
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.
COVID-19 Response 
Moving a lab course online during a pandemic

College courses across the country shifted to online teaching as the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep across the world in March. For two Penn State chemical engineering faculty, they faced a unique challenge: How do you move a lab course online that requires special equipment and facilities for class experiments?  >>
Latest Research 
Penn State chemical engineering in top 10 in NSF research expenditure rankings

Penn State ranked eighth nationally in chemical engineering for the National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development research expenditure rankings >>
Researchers identify breaking point of conducting material

An improved method to predict the temperature when plastics change from supple to brittle, which could potentially accelerate future development of flexible electronics, was developed by Penn State College of Engineering researchers.  >>

Penn State chemical engineers suggest that using computers to analyze the metabolic needs of livestock animal growing cells - or genome-scale metabolic modeling - could help food scientists design processes and growth media that produce lab-grown meat at scales suitable for commercialization.  >>

A new way of creating carbon fibers - which are typically expensive to make - could one day lead to using these lightweight, high-strength materials to improve safety and reduce the cost of producing cars, according to a team of researchers.  >>
Faculty Achievements 
Chemical engineering professor receives membrane research award

The North American Membrane Society has named Andrew Zydney, Penn State Bayard D. Kunkle Chair, professor of chemical engineering, and director of the Center of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology, as their 2020 recipient of the Alan S. Michaels Award for Innovation in Membrane Science and Technology.  >>

Two researchers have become cofunded faculty members in the Institutes of Energy and the Environment: Hee Jeung Oh, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and Hilal Ezgi Toraman, assistant professor in energy and mineral engineering and chemical engineering. >>
Student Stories

Lauren Matuszkiewicz has been selected as the student marshal for the chemical engineering baccalaureate degree program for Penn State's spring commencement, held virtually on May 9. Matuszkiewicz received a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering.  >>

Penn State chemical engineering senior Joshua Pezzulo recently received the 2020 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Outstanding Senior Award.  The award, granted by the Central Pennsylvania Local Section of AIChE, annually recognizes a chemical engineering senior who has had outstanding scholastic, leadership, and service achievements.  >>

Recent chemical engineering graduate Rebecca Aloi served on the executive committee for THON, the student-run, 46-hour dance marathon that benefits Four Diamonds for pediatric cancer patient care and research at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.  >>
Grover earns Frisbey International Student Award

Through an Erickson Discovery Grant, Nakul Grover, a dual major in chemical engineering and English in the integrated BA + MA program, traveled to Bangladesh to research Muslim refugees displaced by turmoil in Myanmar.  >>
Our Alumni 
Walter L. Robb, chemical engineering alumnus and philanthropist, remembered

Penn State and the College of Engineering faculty, staff, and students are mourning the loss of alumnus and longtime supporter Walter L. Robb, who died on March 23, at age 91 from complications from COVID-19 in Schenectady, New York.   >>
Chemical engineering alumnus recognized with multiple honors

Raj Shah, who graduated with a doctorate in chemical engineering from the Penn State College of Engineering in 1995, has received four high honors from a variety of international engineering organizations in the last six months for his contributions to the field of fuels, lubricants, and greases>>

Laura Itle is an Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) research staff member and the project leader for IDA's support of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of SAFETY (Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies) Act Implementation.  >>
Chemical engineering alumna named an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow

Penn State alumna Susan Fullerton, Bicentennial Board of Visitors Faculty Fellow, vice chair for graduate education, and assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, has been selected as a  2020 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow  in Chemistry. >>
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