Month: May 2014

Senior Design Day 2014

By Sydney Souder

team1The excitement was evident as more than one thousand visitors entered Gampel Pavilion for UConn School of Engineering’s Senior Design Day on Friday, May 2, 2014. The mezzanine of the Pavilion was lined with posters and displays outlining the projects of sixteen teams of senior class Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering majors.

Friends and family visited each team’s display to view the results of a year of hard work. Faculty and industry judges stayed longer, asking probing questions and listening carefully as the students explained the intricacies of their projects.

“It’s rewarding to get positive feedback on the work you’ve done all year,” says William Hale whose project sponsored by Aero Gear won second place in the department.

“Besides your grades and resume, nothing is more powerful than a strong story. An in-depth design experience sounds great to companies hiring our students,” says Prof. Jeffrey McCutcheon, a mentor for several capstone design projects.


The Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering prides itself on its ability to provide students the critical tools necessary for their future successes. The rigorous four-year CBE curriculum provides students in-depth skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As the last step before graduation, the department requires that students work in teams and showcase their proficiencies in a final challenge: capstone design.

“Capstone design has been retooled by our talented faculty, and is now a truly unique experience for our seniors and industry sponsors alike,” says Doug Cooper, Head of the CBE department.  Students, guided by faculty and industry mentors, are tasked with analyzing a chemical system, process, or component, subject to economic, environmental, and health and safety considerations.

“Our students worked on 14 different projects ranging from developing an artificial kidney using advanced manufacturing techniques, to developing a continuous process for producing coffee,” says Prof. Leslie Shor, this year’s Capstone Design faculty leader.

One group led by Prof. McCutcheon collaborated with KX Technologies, a Marmon Water/Berkshire Hathaway Company.  During the design team’s journey of discovery and invention, they visited the company headquarters in West Haven, CT, to present their work. Technology experts from the company were in attendance and engaged the students with questions and advice.


“Capstone design has allowed me to put technical knowledge to use in a real world situation. I am grateful for the opportunity to work hands-on with a company, and I think that I will take away valuable time management and interpersonal skills,” says Diva Evans, one of the three group members to visit KX Technologies.

Beyond adding a substantial boost to a resume, this comprehensive program gives students the early experience to think, work and act as an engineer. “You’re not just doing problems out of a book,” says James Cioffi, another member of the second place team, “you’re getting real-world results, and it’s a new thing to be impressed with the work you’ve done.”

The number and diversity of projects in this year’s program made this a challenging, but exciting year for the seniors, and the outcome has no doubt been of benefit to the students, and will be to their future employers.

Students are faced with challenges in planning, prioritizing and communicating, even adapting should something go wrong. “I think many students are also learning something about themselves, about their own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and maybe what sort of work they would like to do next year,” says Prof. Shor.


Chemical Engineers Acknowledged as Distinguished Alumni

By Sydney Souder

Picture of Donald VictoryThe University of Connecticut’s Academy of Distinguished Engineers inducted two Chemical Engineering alumni in a day of celebration on May 1, 2014. Donald J. Victory (Cheg ’81) and John Wyatt (Cheg ’73) returned to their alma mater to receive the prestigious acknowledgment. They both took the opportunity to reengage with the faculty and students from Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering during their day of honor. The Academy grants membership to truly outstanding alumni for distinguished professional achievement contributing to engineering and engineering management in the highest tradition of the School. To be eligible, candidates must have graduated from the University at least ten years prior, and must have made meritorious engineering, managerial or policy contributions throughout their career.

Picture of John Wyatt

Mr. Victory is Process & Risk Engineering Manager for ExxonMobil Development Company in Houston, TX. He leads a global team responsible for process design, process safety, and facilities layout for major upstream projects. The UConn alumnus began his career with Exxon Production Research Company as a facilities engineer in 1981 and advanced through a series of engineering design, operations, and project management positions in the U.S., Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, Qatar and Japan. His contributions include the development of the Controlled Freeze Zone (CFZ) process for more efficient CO2 removal from natural gas. Mr. Victory led the conceptual design of an offshore platform that provided one-third of the domestic gas supply to peninsular Malaysia, and he is listed as an inventor on over a dozen U.S. patents.

John Wyatt, Ph.D., is a Senior Advisor for Carmagen Engineering with expertise in the areas of reactor engineering and exothermic reactor safety. Dr. Wyatt retired from ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company (EMRE) as Team Leader for the Photobioreactor Development team. During his 32 year career with EMRE, he was involved in many core refining processes and cutting-edge technologies. Dr. Wyatt was the Commercial Technology Leader for fixed bed reactor technology and is co-inventor on seven reactor engineering patents. He was instrumental in the development of experimental capabilities and testing protocols to assess the exothermic potential of new catalysts and chemical processes. He also identified the lead cause of temperature non-uniformity in exothermic hydroprocessing reactors and led the implementation of a solution that improved safety and saved ExxonMobil millions of dollars. Dr. Wyatt was an adjunct professor at The Stevens Institute of Technology from 1996-2000.

“These individuals bring lasting honor to their alma mater as practitioners and as citizens,” said Dean Kazerounian during their formal induction ceremony.

Students Design Artificial Kidney with 3-D Printing

UConnTodayBy Rob Chudzik.
Senior chemical engineering student Derek Chhiv, right, discusses with Professor Anson Ma his group's prototype for an artificial kidney. The prototype was generated through 3-D printing. (Al Ferreira for UConn)Republished with permission of UConn Today.



Three-dimensional printing has garnered coverage in the popular press for its application in the custom manufacturing of tools and mechanical parts. But six School of Engineering seniors have recently taken the application of the technology into the medical field, using 3-D printing to create body parts.

Under the direction of Anson Ma, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Institute of Materials Science, two three-person teams of chemical engineering students were tasked with creating an artificial kidney for their Senior Design Project using 3-D printing technology. 3-D printing is an additive manufacturing method capable of creating complex parts that are otherwise impossible or extremely difficult to produce.

The students participating were: Derek Chhiv, Meaghan Sullivan, Danny Ung, Benjamin Coscia, Guleid Awale, and Ali Rogers. They are one of the first classes of students to partner with a commercial 3-D printing company, ACT Group, to create a prototype.

The challenge the teams set out to tackle is rooted in a very real problem.

The United States Renal Data System reports that, as recently as 2009, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) resulted in over 90,000 deaths. Options for treatment of renal disease are essentially limited to either an organ transplant or dialysis. However, there is a limited supply of transplantable kidneys, with demand far outstripping the supply; and dialysis is expensive and is only a temporary solution.

According to data from the National Kidney Foundation, there are currently nearly 100,000 people awaiting kidney transplants in the United States, yet only 14,000 kidney transplants took place in the country this year. An additional 2,500 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month. Faced with these challenges, the two UConn teams set out on a year-long effort to design and develop a prototype of a cost-effective, functional artificial kidney using chemical engineering principles and 3-D printing technology.

“The objective of the design project is to get these students to combine the latest technology and their chemical engineering knowledge, learned over their four years at UConn, to solve a technical problem where we can make a difference,” notes Ma. “Can they push the technology further?”

Guleid Awale, one of the seniors, said the two design teams each took a slightly different approach to the problem. “While the other team utilized techniques such as electrodialysis and forward osmosis in their prototype, our group opted for mainly hollow fiber membrane technology commonly found in traditional hemodialysis treatments.”

Benjamin Coscia ’14 (ENG) explains the hollow fiber membrane technology: “Because 3D printing resolutions are not currently low enough to print a structure which will actually filter blood, the file is of only the shell of the kidney. Hollow fiber membranes will be installed on the inside to do the filtration function. The kidney will then be sealed together using the threads and sealing o-rings. A fluid called dialysate will be circulated on the outside of the membranes, inside of the shell, which will cause flux of components from the blood. A waste stream maintains the person’s ability to urinate. The outside of the shell can be used as a substrate for growth of biological material for ease of integration into the body.”

After undertaking the research and development of the design, the teams designed the prototype using AutoCAD software. Then each team collaborated with UConn technology partner ACT Group of Cromwell, Conn. to select the appropriate polymers, as well as the right printer to use in printing the particular prototype design.

The two teams presented their projects on May 2 at the School of Engineering Senior Design Demonstration Day.

“The biggest challenge in approaching the project was applying the engineering knowledge we’ve gained during our undergraduate years to a more complex biological application,” Awale notes. “This forced us to come out of our comfort zone and rely on our problem-solving skills in order to come up with viable solutions.”