Author: Orlando E

Senior Design Day 2015

By Sydney Souder

Team 10 CaptionMay 1, 2015 marked the School of Engineering’s much anticipated Senior Design Day. The Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering showcased the projects of 13 teams at the event, a school-wide poster competition held on the floor of the Gampel Pavilion arena.

Each team of students spent the entirety of their senior year on a single open-ended capstone design project. The teams began their journeys with a written description of their project, and a faculty and an industry advisor to mentor them as they tackled the challenge.

Over the next eight months, students presented multiple oral presentations and submitted a range of written reports. The poster competition is the final step where the student’s designs are summarized on a 2’ by 3’ poster board display for the public.

On this ultimate design day, both the posters and students are judged. This year, CBE was pleased to host 14 industry experts to judge the posters. Half of these judges were UConn chemical engineering alumni. Each team of students had their poster and verbal pitch evaluated five times.

Team1CaptionThis year’s assortment of projects varied from inventing a human habitat on Mars, to designing wastewater treatments for Unilever. Visitors were even treated to samples of sugar-reduced ice cream developed by a student team for UConn’s Dairy Bar. The following teams earned the highest scores:

First place was awarded to Team 10 whose project was titled “Novel Production and Purification of Manganese Dioxide.” The team consisted of Nicole Beauregard, Gianna Credaroli, Andrea DiVenere, Naomi Tennakoon and Abbey Wangstrom, and they were advised by Dr. Bill Mustain. Duracell sponsored their project to produce and characterize a more pure electrolytic manganese dioxide for use in alkaline batteries. By incorporating electrolyte additives, impurities in the material can be decreased. A battery with higher capacity can improve Duracell sales, lessen the environmental burden of battery waste products, and enhance the consumers’ trust in their power.

Team4CaptionSecond place was awarded to Team 1 for their project “Oxygen Generation via CO2 and H2O Splitting for NASA Manned Space Missions.” Thomas Gay, Ari Fischer and Oscar Nordness made up Team 1, and they were advised by Dr. George Bollas. Team 1 used a chemical looping process to implement a metal oxide oxygen carrier for the Oxygen Generation System (OGS) in NASA’s International Space Station. Potential benefits of their system could reduce size and mass of the OGS as well as improve its electrical efficiency.

Third Place was received by Team 4 for their project “Defluoridation of Ethiopian Groundwater for Human Consumption.” Dr. Doug Cooper advised the group of Jack Edmonds, Gabriella Frey and George Shaw. Due to the pressing health concerns from fluoride contaminated water, the goal of their project was to design a cost effective method of removing upwards of 90% of fluoride ions in groundwater used for human consumption. Current methods use imported technologies from China which are expensive and prone to shipping delays, especially in third world countries. Team 4 created a new method to defluoride water using magnesium oxide, a mineral already existing in Ethiopia.

“Design day is wonderful conclusion to the undergraduate journey,” says Dr. Cooper, professor and head of the department. “Our students show off their hard work, and visitors enjoy learning about the creative and sophisticated solutions they have developed.”

Anson Ma Wins Arthur B. Metzner Early Career Award

Momentum logoRepublished with permission of Momentum,

a School of Engineering electronic publication.



Anson Ma, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Institute of Materials Science, has been awarded the prestigious Arthur B. Metzner Early Career Award.

The award, which comes with a plaque and a $7,500 honorarium, goes to a young person who has made significant accomplishments in rheology, which is the study of the flow of matter.

Ma was nominated by Malcolm Mackley, Emeritus Professor at Cambridge University, who worked with Ma from 2005 to 2009 on the rheology of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) suspended in epoxy and acrylic resins. In his nomination, Mackley wrote:

Anson, with his meticulous approach to science and rheology made sense of difficult experiments. Working together with Prof Paco Chinesta, who is now at Ecole Centrale des Nantes, Anson was the glue that made the link between experiment and some high level suspension rheological modeling.

At UConn, Ma and his team apply experimental and theoretical rheology to a broad range of important application areas. Since 2011, Ma has supervised three postdoctoral fellows, four PhD students, and three visiting students from France. He has also hosted 21 undergraduate students, three high school teachers, and eight
minority high school students to provide them with early research experience related to rheology. To engage younger students and the local community, Ma has chosen food science and, more specifically, rheology of culinary foams and emulsions as the theme for his outreach plan.

Grad Student Spotlight: Andrea Kadilak

By Jayna Miller

andrea1The Chemical Engineering graduate program at UConn provides the opportunity for students to obtain a thorough understanding of the principles of chemical engineering and gain the practical skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Students have the chance to get involved in a number of useful research and teaching opportunities to better prepare for their future.

Grad student Andrea Kadilak has taken advantage of many of the programs and activities that UConn had to offer. Her most rewarding experience during her years at the university was her involvement with the NSF GK-12 Fellowship Program, where she worked with high school students to inspire an interest in science.

“I worked with students at Windham Tech to raise awareness of career options in physics, chemistry, and engineering – I also showcased the fun side of science through experimental demonstrations,” she says.

In addition to the NSF GK-12 Fellowship, Andrea was also involved in a number of on-campus engineering groups. She is currently the Chairperson for the CBE Grad Student Association, and is the Activities Director for the local chapter of AIChE.

“These leadership positions provide an opportunity for me to plan events, network, and organize meetings that bring together all of the engineering programs at UConn, to create a collaborative atmosphere and provide a wide variety of research opportunities for students,” she says.

These positions were not Andrea’s first leadership and work experiences. Prior to attending UConn, she worked as a Process Engineer at Solutia for two years, but decided that she wanted to return to research in a university setting.

Andrea’s research currently focuses on the NSF EFRI Termite Grant, which involves working with a team of engineers, including CBE professor Leslie Shor, to simulate the termite digestive tract in a micro-fluidic device. Termites are able to efficiently break down cellulose and other woody materials into biofuels to use as a food source. Through this research, the team hopes to culture the digestive bacteria in the micro-fluidic device in order to observe it, and perhaps recreate the biofuels, which will have an environmental benefit because it can reduce fuel needs.

Andrea has received multiple accolades for her research at UConn.  She received the Women’s Initiative Committee Travel Award at the Minnesota AIChE Meeting in 2011, and earned 2nd place in the Poster Presentation Competition. In addition, she was the recipient of an ACS Meeting Certificate of Merit in 2012.

In the future, Andrea hopes to work in industry, but also to continue her personal research. She enjoyed working in a chemical plant in the past, but would like to achieve a balance and bridge the gap between research and the implementation of research practices in a process.

AIChE 2013 Annual Conference Draws Strong Attendance from CBE Undergrads

By Jayna Miller

aichemeet1The University of Connecticut Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering undergraduate students recently attended the AIChE 2013 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The AIChE Annual Meeting is an educational forum for chemical engineers focused on research, growth, and innovation. Industry and academic professionals discussed a variety of topics relating to new research, technologies, and studies in chemical engineering.

During the conference, undergraduate students attended events designed to present current research on the latest advances in core areas of chemical engineering, while also covering specific topical areas. Specialty topics included related fields such as alternative energy, sustainability, bioengineering, and process safety.

Several undergrad students gave presentations on their research. William Hale, working with Chemical & Biomolecular professors Ranjan Srivastava and Richard Parnas, presented “Design Optimization by Response Surface Methodology for Continuous Fermentative Production of 1,3 Propanediol From Waste Glycerol By Product of Biodiesel Processes.” Oscar Nordness, a Junior working with Zhiquan Zhou and professor George Bollas, presented in both the oral and poster competitions, and won the 2nd award in the Student Poster Competition. Oscar’s poster title was “Reactivity Analysis of Ni, Cu, Fe Oxygen Carriers in Fixed Bed Chemical Looping Combustion.” His oral presentation was “On the kinetics of Ni-based oxygen carrier reduction and oxidation studied in thermogravimetric analysis and fixed-bed reactors.”



Grad Student Spotlight: Yixin Liu

By Jayna Miller

yixin1At the University of Connecticut, Chemical Engineering graduate students enjoy access to an outstanding combination of academic excellence, student resources, financial support, and a vibrant community.

For grad student Yixin Liu, this is especially true. “I really appreciate that the program gave me so many opportunities to attend different conferences to present my work and communicate with others, such as AIChE annual meeting every year,” she says. She also enjoys the setting of UConn’s campus – which is very different from her hometown.

Yixin moved to Connecticut in 2010 after completing her undergraduate education at Zhejiang University, which is near the east seacoast of China. UConn was her first offer, and after admiring the respected graduate program and the helpful financial support she would receive, she decided to choose UConn to complete her Ph.D.

During her time at UConn, Yixin has worked with Dr. Yu Lei on the development of a high temperature gas sensor which will improve combustion efficiency.
“Real-time, in-situ monitoring and control of combustion-related gases are a top priority in many industrial applications, such as power plant, automotive, metal processing and casting, chemical and petrochemical industries,” she says. These high temperature gas sensors are designed to monitor gas concentrations after combustion and to optimize the combustion process via feedback system, which can improve the combustion efficiency, save more energy, and also reduce the emission of pollutants.

“Our goal is to develop sensors which can be operated right after combustion, so we can immediately get the full picture of combustion conditions and provide more precise control of combustion,” Yixin says.

Yixin’s work on this research throughout her graduate career has been publicly recognized. She has published 10 papers in various scientific journals, four of which she was the lead author. Following her graduation this fall, Yixin plans to work in industry, preferably at a large company. She would especially enjoy continuing her research in a practical, applied setting.

Grad Student Spotlight: Jason White

By Jayna Miller

JasonWhite2The chemical engineering graduate program at the University of Connecticut is comprised of bright, innovative leaders who are motivated by change and challenge. The program offers the opportunity for students to enhance their skills and develop their potential.

One student who can attest to the merits of this program is Jason White. Jason completed his undergraduate degree at UConn, and decided he wanted to continue his research here after enjoying his undergraduate experience. Throughout his time at UConn, Jason has worked with Dr. Ranjan Srivastava on analyzing biological systems and developing computational tools that deal with human health-related problems. These analyses have implications towards personalized medicine for each patient.

“Our goal is to use computational tools to understand how a disease progresses and to analyze whether treatments for patients are optimal,” Jason says. Genetic algorithms are one such method that Jason employs to develop mathematical models of biological systems from experimental data sets. He anticipates that these models could be used to help personalize medicinal treatments on a patient-by-patient basis. For instance, he created a mathematical model of an oral mucositis system, which can be simulated to help predict the outcome and potential treatment options for patients suffering with this disease.

In addition to his research, Jason has also been involved in a number of campus activities. His favorite was the GK-12 Program sponsored by the National Science Foundation, which allowed him to work once a week with technical high school students.

“I enjoyed the GK-12 experience – it gave me the freedom to develop lessons and projects, but also to continue my research as well,” he says. Through this program, he was able to work with students to build a compost water-heating system, which was presented at Lemelson-MIT’s Eureka Fest. Jason has also helped motivate students to get involved in engineering by tutoring undergraduates from Grasso Tech and by serving as a TA at UConn. In the future, Jason plans to pursue these interests and become a professor, so he can maintain the balance between teaching and his research.

During his time at UConn, Jason has earned a number of accolades for his work, such as a Unilever Scholarship, an Arnold Griffin Scholarship, and an NSF GK-12 Fellowship. He has also published two proceedings in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. William Mustain Receives DOE Early Career Research Program Award

Republished with permission of Momentum,
a School of Engineering electronic publication.


By Jayna Miller (CLAS Dec. ’13)

mustain2012_profileDr. William Mustain, an assistant professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, is the recipient of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Early Career Award, which is one of the most competitive in the United States, with only 65 awarded annually. The Early Career Research Program supports the research pursuits of exceptional young scientists, and creates career opportunities in various research fields.  Dr. Mustain’s five-year, $800,000 award was presented by the Office of Basic Energy Science.

The award will bring new equipment to the university and fund two graduate and two undergraduate students over the life of the grant.  Dr. Mustain’s proposal, “Room Temperature Electrochemical Upgrading of Methane to Oxygenate Fuels,” will focus on the development of a new type of electrochemical device that converts methane, from natural gas or biogas, to liquid fuels, like methanol, at room temperature.  This low temperature operation is a significant improvement over state-of-the-art methane-to-fuels processes that operate at very high temperatures, sometimes more than 900°C.  They also generally convert methane to syngas then employ a second process to convert the syngas to other chemicals and fuels. These extra steps add both cost and complexity to the process.

According to Dr. Mustain, the research team will focus on understanding the fundamental mechanisms for the transformation of methane to methanol at ultra-low temperatures, bypassing the syngas intermediate,  as well as determining the optimal design conditions to maximize methane conversion and methanol selectivity.


Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this process is that it is able to operate at or near room temperature (20-50°C), which has a number of advantages.  “There will be lower energy required for the process, and much lower cost because you do not need high quality heat and you have a wider range of materials that you can consider,” said Dr. Mustain.  He hopes to leverage all of the work that has been done on other electrochemical devices, like batteries and fuel cells, over the last 20 years to make rapid improvements on his prototype.

There are a variety of practical applications for this research.  For instance, methanol can be used as a direct energy carrier, and as a fuel source for small portable power applications or cars using a direct methanol fuel cell.  Methanol is also one of the top 25 industrial chemicals in the world, which means it has a range of uses.  In addition, it can be easily converted to formaldehyde, which is another top 25 industrial chemical.

Dr. Mustain’s previous research has involved the design of new catalyst materials for fuel cells, capacitors and lithium-ion batteries. He also has received the Illinois Institute of Technology Young Alumni Award. For more about his DOE-funded research, please visit