Author: Orlando E

CBE Welcomes 5 New Faculty

Following an especially ambitious recruiting year, the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) Department is excited to announce that 5 impressive new faculty members will join us for the fall 2013 and spring 2014 academic terms. The leap in faculty hiring is rooted in President Susan Herbst’s 2012 announcement that UConn will hire 290 new tenured/tenure track faculty members – in addition to filling vacancies – across the university by 2016.

All bring substantial academic credentials that will strengthen UConn Engineering programs. The new faculty members are profiled briefly below.

KellyBurke_profileKelly Burke joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department, and has an appointment in the Polymer Program of the Institute of Materials Science. Dr. Burke, who joins UConn under the Eminent Faculty Initiative, earned her PhD at Case Western Reserve University in 2010 and brings expertise in protein modification strategies, tissue engineering, structure-property relationships of liquid crystals, and biocompatible multifunctional polymeric materials. Dr. Burke was a post-doctoral associate at Tufts University (2010-13), where she received an NIH National Research Service Award Fellowship.



yongku_profileYongku Cho joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2010. Dr. Cho’s research centers on protein engineering, optogenetics, neuroimaging and molecular neurobiology. He was most recently a post-doctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his work involved the molecular engineering of light-activated proteins.




SunLuyi2013_profileLuyi Sun joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department, and has an appointment in the Polymer Program of the Institute of Materials Science. Dr. Sun, who joins UConn under the Eminent Faculty Initiative, received his PhD at the University of Alabama in 2004 and brings expertise in multi-functional nanostructured materials; polymeric materials and new polymer processing development; layered compounds; green science and engineering; hydrates and porous materials for energy storage. He was an assistant professor of chemistry at Texas State University (2009-13) and was a post-doctoral fellow at both Texas A&M and the University of Alabama.



VallaJulia2013_profileJulia Valla joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department with expertise in the design and development of novel catalysts for industrial applications and design of new, emerging technologies and processes for the clean and sustainable energy production. She earned her PhD at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece in 2005. Dr. Valla was previously an assistant research professor in CMBE and the Center for Clean Energy Engineering and, earlier in her career, a Project Leader for Rive Technology Inc.



wagstrom_kristina_profileKristina Wagstrom joins the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department as the Northeast Utilities Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering Education. She brings expertise in sourcing and modeling atmospheric particulates, air pollutants, health impacts of atmospheric particulate matter deposition, and air quality models. Dr. Wagstrom received her PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 2009. She conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Minnesota (2009-12), and was an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. EPA (2012-13).

CBE Will Host the 2014 AIChE Northeast Regional Student Conference

After a round of competitive bidding, it was announced that the Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Department at the University of Connecticut will host the 2014 AIChE Northeast Regional Student Conference.
To be held in the spring of 2014, the regional conference is a place where students from schools around the northeast will come together to share their undergraduate research experiences, attend workshops, and network with other students and local companies that will sponsor the event. Highlights of the conference will include the undergraduate paper and poster competitions, and the highly anticipated Chem-E-Car competition.
Regional winners from all of these events will earn the opportunity to compete on the national stage at the annual professional meeting, which will be held in Atlanta in Fall 2014. The student executive board will begin planning for this event now, and companies or alumni that may be interested in participating, please contact Professor Daniel Burkey.

Friendly Competition Produces “Eggcelent” Results

Screen shot 2013-06-26 at 1.29.22 PMRepublished with permission from Momentum, a School of Engineering electronic publication.


On Thursday, May 30th, UConn’s GK-12 program hosted the second annual Engineering Design Challenge Competition, involving student teams from Connecticut’s Technical High School System, at the Storrs campus. The theme of this year’s competition was “Reverse Engineering Egg Crash Car.”

eggcar1a  eggcar1

In the good-natured competition, the student teams were required to apply core engineering principles in a deceptively simple, fun and engaging way while pitting their engineering knowhow against that of other Tech School students. The participating teams were the top performers in contests held at their home Tech Schools.

In the Egg Crash Car competition, the teams were charged with building a racecar – using only the materials provided – capable of safely transporting an uncooked egg through a variety of challenges without the precious cargo breaking.

Among the materials available were Ziplock® bags, wheels, balloons, straws, pom-poms, mouse traps, fishing line, tape, poly-fill stuffing, cotton balls and rubber bands. These raw materials produced a variety of vehicles, from sleek rectangular entries to zany-looking “Mad Max” style vehicles adorned with cotton-ball armor. For each vehicle, it was stipulated that the egg “passenger” had to be removable.

The GK-12 Fellows designed three rigorous tests for the vehicles: a rear impact test, in which a suspended wooden mallet was released from three different angles into the rear of the vehicle; a rollover test, in which vehicles were released at different angles from the top of a four-foot plane; and a head-on collision test, in which CO2 canisters were attached to the rear of each vehicle as a propulsion system that carried the vehicles into a cinderblock wall. For each test, the aim was to keep the vehicle and its egg cargo intact. Other criteria included the vehicle production costs, speed and structural integrity.

In the end, the Tech School students enjoyed a fun day of friendly competition and came away with a better appreciation of core engineering concepts such as performance-based testing, tradeoffs between material cost and quality and the iterative and challenging nature of the design process.

The competition brought together teams from the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology, Howell Cheney Technical High School, Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School, E.C. Goodwin Technical High School, Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School, Norwich Technical High School, A.I. Prince Technical High School, Vinal Technical High School, and Windham Technical High School.

The teams – along with fellow students who did not compete – were mentored throughout the 2012-13 academic year by UConn Engineering doctoral candidates who are committed to helping introduce engineering concepts in Tech School classrooms. The 2012-13 GK-12 Fellows included Juan Pablo Correa Baena (Environmental Engineering); Lu Han,  Andrea Kadilak, Joseph Parisi and Rebecca Rubinstein (all in Chemical Engineering); Justin Roller and Michael Zilm (Materials Science & Engineering); and Lou Bachenheimer and Nick Curtis (Mechanical Engineering).

The GK-12 (Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education) program is an innovative educational program sponsored by the National Science Foundation.  It aims to provide teaching resources (in the form of graduate students in the engineering sciences) to classrooms in the state of Connecticut Technical High School System. Dr. Doug Cooper is the Principal Investigator of UConn’s GK-12 program.

Dr. George Bollas Receives ACS PRF Doctoral New Investigator Award

By Jayna Miller

bollasgeorge_wCDr. George Bollas, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is the recipient of a prestigious ACS Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator Award. The ACS PRF programs support innovative research in the petroleum field and promote the development of promising engineers and scientists. The award program provides career opportunities to young faculty and their undergraduate and graduate students by supporting advanced scientific research. The goals of the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund are to support fundamental research in the petroleum field and develop the next generation of engineers and scientists through the support of advanced scientific education.
Dr. Bollas’ research project will explore aspects of Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis selectivity. The Fischer-Tropsch process is a collection of chemical reactions that provide a means of producing transportation fuels from carbon monoxide and hydrogen, a combination referred to as synthesis gas. This reaction also produces excess hydrocarbon products in addition to materials for fuel, so there remains a need to make this process more selective.

Through Dr. Bollas’ research, it may be possible to significantly improve the selectivity of this process to make the synthesis of fuel through Fisher-Tropsch more efficient and economical. Dr. Bollas and his research group plan to examine novel catalyst synthesis methods that enhance the selectivity of Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis (FTS) towards intermediate-chain length hydrocarbons, particularly synthetic gasoline.

The benefits of making Fischer-Tropsch a more efficient and less centralized process are energy independence and security. In addition, the vast unexploited resources of natural gas found recently in the US make natural gas a major source for energy and fuels production. Dr. Bollas’ new experimental work will provide the capability to expand research exploring alternative fuels and efficient processes at the CBE Department and in the Center for Clean Energy Engineering.

Dr. Bollas is a process design expert and winner of the prestigious NSF CAREER Award and the ACS PRF DNI Award. His research focuses on biomass pyrolysis, coal and biomass to liquids, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, chemical-looping combustion, and waste to energy processes.


Amanda Card Receives 2013 Outstanding Student Women Academic Achievement Award

Momentum logoModified from original version with permission from Momentum, a School of Engineering electronic publication.


Amanda Card presents her work at the annual Senior Design Day at Gampel Pavilion

Chemical Engineering senior Amanda Card received the 2013 Outstanding Student Women Academic Achievement Award for an undergraduate. She has maintained a cumulative GPA of 4.0 while devoting significant time to outreach activities, scholarly research, and leadership duties within the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
Amanda has served as Collegiate Section President, Conference Committee Chair and Secretary of UConn’s SWE chapter, and worked as a STEM instructor for eighth grade students from underserved communities who participate in UConn’s Pre-Engineering Program (PEP).  Amanda’s undergraduate research, overseen by Dr. Leslie Shor, has involved contributions to the development of an optical method that measures diffusivity through hydrogel-filled microfluidic capillaries. She has also interned with both Unilever and Saint-Gobain. Amanda is excited to begin her career with MPR Associates, Inc. in Alexandria, VA following graduation.

CBE Launching Revised Capstone Senior Design Program

By Jayna Miller

The Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) Department is pleased to announce the launch of a revised Capstone Senior Design program this fall 2013. In this new format, each faculty member will be advising one or two capstone design projects over the entire academic year.

Prof. Leslie Shor, building on the recent successes of Prof. Dan Burkey in formulating this new format, will be leading the effort for the department. Professor Shor is a Northeast Utilities Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering Education, and currently leads the Engineered Microhabitats research group.

Professor Shor will be chairing a “Capstone Design Governance Committee,” which will propose guidelines for Capstone Design projects, create templates for project descriptions and general project criteria, and work with faculty to ensure proposed projects meet the criteria.  Working with Burkey and Prof. George Bollas, the committee will also create milestone and evaluation rubrics for the faculty and students to follow, and produce an “example design projects catalog,” which can be used to recruit industry sponsors. The overarching goal is to help the department provide the best design experience for students and our industry partners. Capstone Design, our seniors are mentored by chemical engineering faculty and industry sponsors as they apply engineering fundamentals and tools to solve practical engineering problems. Students use this experience to develop teamwork and communication skills as they tackle their open-ended, real-world challenges. They learn about the principles and practices of design, setting priorities, project management, ethical and economic decision making, intellectual property, oral and written communication, all as they evaluate their design from a technical, economic, safety, and environmental perspective.

The department is actively seeking industry partners to propose and support a student project. For more information, please visit: and learn how to join our team.

UConn Engineering Honors John (Jack) Prior

prior2013During a gala event on May 2 at the Storrs campus, the School of Engineering honored 10 exceptional alumni and friends as 2013 inductees into the UConn Academy of Distinguished Engineers. Nearly 100 attendees helped to honor the new inductees, each of whom spoke of the profound influence of UConn Engineering in shaping their careers.  One inductee was an alumnus of the Chemical Engineering department, John Prior.

John (Jack) Prior graduated from UConn in 1986 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, and then went on to earn a doctorate of science (Sc.D.) in Chemical Engineering from MIT, focusing his research on monitoring and controlling bioreactors for the production of biopharmaceuticals.

Jack’s current position is Senior Director for Bioprocess Engineering at Genzyme, where he oversees a team of 14 engineers responsible for improving the manufacturing processes  for these and other biopharmaceutical compounds that can be incredibly challenging to produce.

Jack’s work often places him in the “front lines” in addressing critical challenges. For example, he led company efforts to identify and correct the cause of a Thymoglobulin production challenge at the company’s facility in France in 2007. His efforts enabled patients to continue to receive this life-saving therapy. In 2008, he led efforts to understanding and address product comparability issues that had previously delayed the introduction of adult treatments for Pompe’s disease in the US.  Jack also played a key role the troubleshooting effort surrounding a viral contamination episode the company experienced in 2009.

In addition to Jack’s important management and manufacturing technology development role in the biopharmaceutical industry, he has given back to UConn directly by serving as a member of the Chemical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board since 2006.  In this capacity, he generously gives his time to provide critique, guidance, and support to the Chemical Engineering program. The CBE department would like to extend its congratulations to Jack Prior for his induction into the UConn Academy of Distinguished Engineers.

GOALI Award for Interdisciplinary Team

maric2Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) professor Dr. Radenka Maric, in close collaboration with MSE Industrial Advisory Board member Armand Halter and Dr. William Mustain (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering), has received a prestigious, $423,000 National Science Foundation “Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry” (GOALI) award.

The GOALI award seeks to promote collaboration between universities and industry by funding research projects that operate across this divide. Such projects provide academic researchers and industry practitioners the opportunity to better understand and bridge their different approaches, and to more rapidly move research from the lab to commercial markets.

The team’s project is entitled “GOALI: One Step Direct Deposition of Durable Cathode for High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC).” The importance of the proposed research lies in its position at the nexus of processing and microstructure with the activity, stability and utilization of catalysts using High Temperature Proton Exchange Membranes (HT-PEMFC).

Dr. Maric, who will lead the project as principal investigator, is a Connecticut Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy at UConn.  Her research expertise lies in the area of novel materials for high temperature fuel cells, and she is the recipient of many prestigious awards. Dr. Maric was recently named a 2013 “Women of Innovation” Finalist in Research and Leadership by the Connecticut Technology Council. Read more about her research here.

Mr. Halter is the Vice President of Applied Sciences at Sonalysts, Inc., where his work includes the development of materials for alternative energy sources. Dr. Mustain is Associate Department Head of CBE.

Commencement 2013

Forty-nine students graduated with their B.S. in chemical engineering in a commencement exercise held on Saturday, May 11th at Gampel Pavilion on the Storrs campus. Kelsey Boch, who graduated with a double major in chemical engineering and molecular and cell biology, served as the student commencement speaker, and challenged students to take the paths less travelled, forge their own trails, and define success on their own terms. In the fall, Kelsey will start the next step in her academic journey when she starts medical school. Chemical engineering senior Amanda Card served as one of two ceremonial banner carriers in the processional, an honor usually reserved for the student or students with the highest GPA in the school of engineering. Amanda graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA in her four years in the School of Engineering, and will join an energy and sustainability consulting firm in the Washington, D.C. area in the fall. Senior Christine Nykyforchyn performed a stunning a cappella version of the national anthem to lead off the ceremonies, and will start her studies in the graduate biomedical engineering program at Boston University in the fall. All in all, seniors in the class of 2013 will join some of the biggest and best companies in Connecticut and beyond, and will enroll in some of the most prestigious graduate programs in the nation, including MIT, Columbia, The University of Texas at Austin, Purdue, and Boston University.

The faculty and staff of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department wish the Class of 2013 all the best as they move into the next chapter of their lives!