Fall 2015

About this issue's cover photo:
The annual Chemical Engineering Research Symposium was held at the Nittany Lion Inn on September 11.
ChE graduate student Astha Garg (left), advised by Darrell Velegol, describes her poster research "Understanding electrokinetic behavior at high ionic strength," to fellow student Hasin Maksura Feroz.


Faculty Awards and Recognitions
Enrique Gomez and Michael Janik receive faculty promotions
Scott Milner named Radcliffe Institute Fellow 

Janna Maranas awarded Department of Energy grant to power electric vehicles 

Michael Janik receives two NSF grants for computational catalyst design

Kyle Bishop appointed early career and development professorship

Wayne Curtis named AIChE Outstanding Student Chapter Advisor
Student Awards and Recognitions 

Four graduate students honored at 2015 Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Symposium

Ying Li awarded AIChE Separations Division Graduate Student Research Award 

Stanley Chan  receives  2015 Astronaut Foundation  Scholarship

Margaret Simons awarded first place poster award at the Conference on Constraint-Based Reconstruction and Analysis

Alumni News

Joshua Vajda named 2015 Early Career Alumni Recognition Award  recipient
Have news items you'd like to share? We would love to hear about your recent milestones and accomplishments including job changes, promotions, awards, marriages, and births. Please email submissions to 

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ChE in the News
NSF grants nearly $3M to train graduate STEM students
Self-assembling, biomimetic membranes may aid water filtration design

Massive Open Online Course "Creativity, Innovation, and Change" is now a vailable 'on demand' through Coursera

Online Course Report recently ranked 
Penn State's "Creativity, Innovation, and Change" as the 9th most popular Massive Open Online Course of all time

Manish Kumar is among a group of Penn State researchers awarded the MRI Humanitarian Materials Initiative Award for their efforts in clean water research

Zydney broadens public's understanding of chemical engineering through ACS Experts Program

Upcoming Events

Friday, October 30
Alumni Career Panel
"Interviewing, Recruiting and Career Decisions" 
Join chemical engineering alumni professionals for an evening of networking, career discussion, and a candid Q&A session. All are welcome to attend.
Where: 140 Fenske Lab
5:15 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. 
Pizza, refreshments, and networking
6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. 
Panel sessions 

Saturday, October 31
Chemical Engineering Alumni Tailgate
Join fellow alumni, students, and faculty when the Nittany Lions take on Illinois! Food and refreshments will be provided. This event is being sponsored by the Penn State Chemical Engineering Alumni Group.
8:30 a.m. - Game Time
Look for the chemical engineering signs in Lot 12. Additional location information will be posted on the department Facebook page the morning of the tailgate. 

Thursday, November 5
Chemical Engineering Open House - Engineering Library
The Engineering Library (325 Hammond) will hold an   Open House
to celebrate chemical engineering students. The event aims to promote library resources relevant to the field. All are welcome and cake will be served! Please contact the Engineering Library at 814-865-3451 or 
UL ENGR@lists.psu.edu   for more information.
Where: 325 Hammond Building
1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Monday, November 9
Penn State Reception: American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting
Planning to attend the 2015 AIChE Annual Meeting? Join the Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering on Monday, November 9, for an evening reception at the Salt Palace Convention Center. No RSVP is required and all are welcome to attend. We hope to see you there!
Where: Salt Palace Convention Center, Room 155E
7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

McWhirters' $10M gift to expand chemical engineering graduate program


Chemical engineering alumnus John "Jack" McWhirter and his wife, Jeanette Dachille McWhirter, recently gave Penn State $10 million to support the graduate program in the Department of Chemical Engineering.


The gift continues their strong support and pride in the exceptional accomplishments of the faculty, staff, and students in chemical engineering at Penn State. "We hope our gift helps to ensure that the program can continue to succeed at the highest levels," they said.


Department hosts inaugural distinguished  lectureship
David A. Tirrell, the Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and director of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology, presented at the Department of Chemical Engineering's inaugural distinguished lectureship September 29 at the Huck Life Sciences Building Berg Auditorium.
Tirrell's lecture, "A Polymer Chemist's Perspective on Protein Science and Engineering," focused on the differences between synthetic proteins and polymers, and the developments that have been instituted to bridge the gap between the two.
The lectureship aided in bringing together the materials science, chemistry, life science and engineering communities for an afternoon of learning and enrichment.  The lectureship was followed by an evening reception at the Nittany Lion Inn. 

Catalyst research strengthens sustainability goals
Chances are, you didn't give much thought to catalysts this morning as you consumed your multivitamin, filled your reusable plastic water bottle, or headed out the door to start your vehicle. Astonishingly enough, however, all of these products are shaped by catalysts, which are involved in more than 90 percent of all domestic manufacturing processes in the chemical industry.
Catalysts, by definition, are substances that lower the energy barriers of chemical reactions and lead to an increase in the rate at which new substances are created. They are not consumed in the reactions, however, and that enables them to be reused over and over again. Catalysts are used to transform raw chemical ingredients into petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, synthetic plastics, and rubber and food products -- as well as to control vehicle and industry emissions.

Chemical engineering welcomes new faculty member Xueyi Zhang
This fall, The Department of Chemical Engineering welcomed Xueyi Zhang as an assistant professor.
Zhang is currently teaching CH E 480W Chemical Engineering Laboratory.
Zhang received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Tsinghua University, Beijing, and a doctoral degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota, where he focused on zeolites and their applications in gas separation and catalysis.
Most recently, he has completed postdoctoral training at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working in the field of heterogeneous catalysis. 
Zhang's research interests include advanced porous materials for clean energy sources, including: porous materials synthesis, heterogeneous catalysis, gas separation, and microscopy.
2015 Chemical Engineering Research Symposium showcases graduate studies
The 2015 Penn State Chemical Engineering Research Symposium was held Friday, September 11, at the Nittany Lion Inn. The all-day event featured three presentation sessions showcasing research from 18 graduate student panelists. Students had the opportunity to communicate research findings to an audience of peers, faculty members, and other representatives from the Penn State scientific community.
The keynote speech was delivered by alumnus and former faculty member John " Jack " McWhirter. McWhirter spoke of his career path after graduating from Penn State with his Ph.D. and the subsequent lessons he learned as an employee of the chemical engineering industry.
The event also featured two poster sessions in which students had the opportunity to talk candidly about their research and display highlights from their findings. 
The symposium concluded with a recap of the day ' s events and a student networking reception. Awards were announced on September 29 for outstanding presentation at the symposium, as well as exemplary graduate work throughout the academic year. 

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