Grad Student Spotlight: Christine Endicott

By Sydney Souder

Graduate student Christine Endicott is a true UConn Husky. Although a Vermont native, she received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at UConn in 2008. Now, she’s back and in the second year of her PhD studies. And more? She’s still a Gampel season ticket holder.

“I had such a positive experience here as an undergraduate. I love the campus, and the environment in the Chemical Engineering department.” She adds, “My advisor, Dr. Srivastava, has been a mentor to me since I started at UConn back in 2004, so it was an obvious choice to return and work with him to complete my PhD.

The research performed here at UConn is highly relevant to today’s engineering challenges. Christine is currently trying to develop new antibiotic treatment methods for infectious diseases. “I love that I’m working on the potential next generation of infection control. Antibiotic resistance is a real problem, and the idea that I could save lives is extremely rewarding.”

Christine describes the graduate student environment here as one of comradery and collaboration. She and other students often take breaks together, and use each other’s experiences to help each other view their work in different lights. Pursuing her PhD at UConn has also provided her opportunities to grow outside of the lab. Christine has taught physics at UConn’s summer BRIDGE program, and has gained experience in writing grants by preparing a proposal for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As a National Science Foundation GK12 Fellow, Christine also interacts with students at AI Prince Technical High School in nearby Hartford to stimulate their interest in STEM fields.

“UConn is a great place to pursue a PhD. It has the right combination of great science, professors who care about you as a scientist and as a person, and great college basketball.”




Grad Student Spotlight: Erik Carboni

By Sydney Souder

Photo of Erik

As he nears the completion of his PhD in chemical engineering, Erik Carboni has had plenty of time to acquaint himself with the useful facilities and knowledgeable staff here at the University of Connecticut. Over the years Erik has learned that if he needs a certain machine or instrument, he can easily find and use it. “If I had to describe UConn in one word, I would say that it is productive.”

The Connecticut native chose UConn knowing it was a strong school for chemical engineering. UConn’s top ranked school of pharmacy was a plus for Erik, since it enabled him to add a pharmaceutical component to his research.Photo of Erik working in the lab

Erik is investigating the flow behavior of nano and micro-particles in blood. The goal of his research is to improve drug delivery to cancerous tumors and other diseases. He finds it rewarding to contribute to treatment therapies. “If we can find the optimal size and shape that leads to maximal margination—which is the movement of particles toward the blood vessel wall—then we can maximize the delivery of nanoparticle drug carriers.”

Last October, Erik presented his work at the Society of Rheology annual meeting in Philadelphia. The talk was titled, “The Rheology of Nanoparticles in Blood for Improved Cancer Therapy.” This research offers a new perspective on mechanisms associated with margination.

Erik treasures the mentorship provided by his Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Anson Ma. “He found a project for me that he knew that I would enjoy working on. He is someone who genuinely cares about his students.”

After receiving his PhD, Erik aspires to a research position at a pharmaceutical company, but would love to teach if the opportunity presented itself.



CBE Undergraduates Win AIChE Poster Prizes

By Sydney Souder

Students of the CBE department excelled at AIChE’s Undergraduate Poster Competition this November. Despite fierce competition among more than 300 student presenters, six UConn Chemical Engineers took home prizes.

The 2014 AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) Annual Meeting was held in Atlanta, Georgia this year. It is the premier forum for chemical engineers, and academic and industry experts presented developments on a wide range of topics relevant to cutting-edge research, new technologies, and emerging growth areas in chemical engineering.

Over the years, the Undergraduate Poster Session has become one of the highlights of the conference. Competing students each prepared a poster detailing progress and contributions on their independent research projects. During the conference, the students presented their work to individual judges. Over 80 judges were in attendance, all of which were senior AIChE members from academia or industry.

The research categories included: Catalysis and Reaction Engineering; Sustainability; Food, Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology; Separations; Environmental; Education; Fuels, Petrochemicals and Energy; Computing and Process Control; and Materials Engineering and Sciences. Awards were presented to the top posters in each division.

We’re pleased to announce that the following UConn CBE undergraduates won in their divisions:

  • Gabriella Frey – 1st Place in Separations
    “Formulating Draw Solution Mixtures for Forward Osmosis”
  • Gianna Credaroli – 2nd Place in Separations
    “A New Thin Film Composite Membrane”
  • Oscar Nordness – 2nd place in energy fuels and petrochemicals
    “Incorporation of High Pressure CLC into IGCC systems”
  • Abbey Wangstrom – 2nd place in Reaction and Catalysis Engineering
    “High Activity, High Stability Pt/ITO Fuel Cell Catalysts”
  • Clarke Palmer – 3rd Place in Fuels, Petrochemicals, and Energy
    “Reactor Design and Analysis of a Simulated moving Bed Reactor for Chemical-Looping Combustion”
  • Ari Fischer – 3rd Place in Catalysis and Reaction Engineering
    “Thermochemical CO2 and H2O Splitting Via Chemical-Looping with Cerium and Cobalt Mixed Oxides for Oxygen Generation”

After their hard work, the CBE faculty treated our undergraduates to a night on the town.

Grad Student Spotlight: Jie Qi

The United States remains the top graduate destination in the world. With superior quality and flexibility in its programs, UConn has everything the best programs have to offer and more.  Third year PhD student Jie Qi stands by her decision to study Chemical Engineering here. “I chose UConn because of its strong reputation as a research University,” she says, “There are many great opportunities available to students including different internships, various options for financial aid, and a great network of alumni.”

Jie is originally from Harbin, China and received her bachelor’s degree at Dalian University of Technology in 2012. Most would consider coming to Connecticut a drastic change, but Jie adjusted to New England easily. “I love the color in fall. Storrs is a good place to study and live.” She adds, “I feel like I’m part of the school, and not just another international student in a city. I can always get help if I need it.”

Her research project under Dr. Brian Willis involves selective area atomic layer deposition (ALD) of copper. “I hope this new technique can help improve solar power technology and make it cost-competitive with fossil fuels.” Jie hopes to be able to apply what she’s learned to help ease the energy crisis by working in industry in the future.

This month Jie will attend her first conference: the AVS International Symposium and Exhibition. She will give a talk about the effects of seed layer properties and reaction conditions on ALD Cu thin films relevant to plasmonic devices.

“The engineering school has helped me develop and grow, and there is a lot of school pride at UConn,” says Jie, “The program is flexible, but challenging. I feel lucky to have the chance to complete my PhD here.”

Student Researchers Win EPA Sustainability Grant

By Sheila Foran

A student team from the University of Connecticut is one of five winners in the Northeast in the Environmental Protection Agency’s P3 student design competition for sustainability research. Their achievement carries a monetary award of up to $15,000 to help fund their work, as well as an opportunity to compete for $90,000 during the second phase of the competition.P3 logo

The goal of UConn’s entry, one of 42 selected nationally, is the development of a cost-effective, environmentally friendly flame retardant to be used in fire prevention and containment. In comparison to existing flame retardants, UConn’s proposal, “Environmentally Friendly Flame Retardants Based on Inorganic Nanosheets,” is designed to have similar or higher performance than products currently in use but with only a minimum release of toxic gases during combustion, and with no leak of toxic chemicals during production, transportation, and use. An additional benefit is that the cost will be similar or lower than that of currently used retardants.

Dr. Luyi Sun, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, says that current fire retardants have significant environmental and health issues. The product designed by UConn students will be a waterborne, halogen-free coating composed of hundreds of layers of well-aligned inorganic nanosheets that can physically block the heat/oxygen transfer and thus effectively retard flames. Its waterborne nature ensures that no volatile organic compounds will be released during the coating formation process.

The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between students from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, the Institute of Materials Science, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Team members include Ph.D. candidates Jingjing Liu from Materials Science, and Jingfang Yu, from Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; seniors Lauren Kovacs, Brittany Bendel, and Arie Havasov who are Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering majors; and junior William Masinda, a Materials Science and Engineering major.

The three P’s in the EPA competition’s title stand for People, Prosperity, and the Planet. It is a two-phase team contest, where students initially prepare proposals that compete for funding of up to $15,000 to pursue their research. In April, the funded teams bring their projects to Washington, D.C., where they are judged by a panel of experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the annual National Sustainable Design Expo. The winning team will receive a grant of $90,000 to take its design to real-world application.

Grad Student Spotlight: David Gamliel

By Sydney Souder

Graduate students have many reasons to choose UConn, from conducting research in world class facilities, to a welcoming learning environment, and no shortage of school pride (not everyone wins dual National Championships in basketball).

“Don’t go anywhere else!” says second year PhD student David Gamliel of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Graduate Program. David hails from Amherst, Mass., and received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UMass Amherst, but his decision to pursue his PhD in Storrs was simple.

“I picked UConn because I was really interested in energy engineering, and I enjoyed the orientation. I am very lucky I ended up at the Center for Clean and Energy Engineering (C2E2),” he says.

David’s faculty advisor is Dr. Julia Valla. His research focus involves converting biomass into energy through pyrolysis. Pyrolysis, which occurs when biomass is brought to elevated temperatures without oxygen, produces an array of useful chemicals. Some of these are the same as those found in gasoline. David is studying the best operating conditions for pyrolysis, and how small scale microreactors can be scaled up to maximize the conversion of biomass to useful products.

“I feel like I am doing meaningful and impactful research,” he says of his work, which can be viewed at “The level of independence given to me as a student researcher was beyond my expectations.”

Another advantage of studying at UConn, David adds, “I really enjoy the opportunities to travel and present my research.” He presented at the ACS Conference in March, and attended the Energy and Fuels section dinner, a great networking event. This November he will present a poster and give a lecture at AIChE in Atlanta.

David is involved outside of the lab, too. He is the treasurer of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association, and participates in outreach work. As a GK12 fellow, David shares weekly lessons about science, math and engineering at Wolcott Technical High School in Torrington, Connecticut. He is also an outreach ambassador for C2E2, and has participated in the Joule fellowship program.

“I would like to go into industry,” says David, “But I am still open to the idea of becoming a professor. “

REU Summer A Success

By Sydney Souder

For the third consecutive summer, UConn’s Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) Department hosed an NSF sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer program.

“The unique aspect of our REU,” said Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, principal investigator for the NSF grant supporting the program, “is that we connected student participants with faculty mentors and company sponsors for a true entrepreneurial or business oriented research experience.”

Lasting ten weeks this past summer, participating students were advised by both faculty and industrial partners, providing them with a unique experience at the interface of academic research and commercialization.

Projects varied across the spectrum of chemical engineering and materials science. This summer produced the following projects: Ceramic Nanofilm Depostion for Vapor Detection Devices (Proton OnSite), Implantable, Wireless Biosensors for Diabetes Care (Biorais), Graphene Polymer Nanocomposites (Cabot Corporation), Water Based Anodes for Lithium Ion Batteries (BYK Additives & Instruments), High-Performance Nanostructured Organic/Inorganic Hybrids for Functional Applications (Nanocor), Development of Scalable Droplet Microfluidic Devices (BASF), Increasing Soil Water Retention with Bacteria (DuPont), Characterization of TiO2 Thin Films on 316L Stainless Steel Formed using a Sol-Gel Technique (VeruTEK Technologies), Plasmonic Nanodevices for Solar Energy Harvesting (Scitech Solar), and Sustainable Biofuels Production (RPM Sustainable Technologies).

Students spent their summer in a world-class academic research laboratory with state-of-the art instrumentation. They also toured local incubator spaces, and participated in an Innovation Accelerator event at a local private incubator.

Laboratory time was balanced with workshops to improve students’ writing and presenting skills. One unique aspect of the program was the short business seminar during which students experienced a flavor of the business side of innovation.

This preparation came in handy for the “Innovation Connection” networking event at summer’s end. Participants pitched their work to the region’s business community during their poster session, and networked with over one hundred people in the field.

The REU experience did much more than the name may imply. This summer’s group of students also held their own barbeques, organized outings to UConn’s Avery Point campus, Mystic, and even attended a New Britain Rock Cats baseball game. These recreational events enriched the already memorable program to an unforgettable summer experience.

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.

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.


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.”