Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Chemical and Petroleum Engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering was established in 1910, making it the first department for petroleum engineering in the world. Today, our department has over 40 expert faculty (tenure/tenure-stream/joint/adjunct), a host of dedicated staff, more than 20 state-of-the-art laboratories and learning centers, and education programs that enrich with strong fundamentals and hands-on experience.

Chemical engineering is concerned with processes in which matter and energy undergo change. The range of concerns is so broad that the chemical engineering graduate is prepared for a variety of interesting and challenging employment opportunities.

Chemical engineers with strong background in sciences are found in management, design, operations, and research. Chemical engineers are employed in almost all industries, including food, polymers, chemicals, pharmaceutical, petroleum, medical, materials, and electronics. Since solutions to energy, environmental, and food problems must surely involve chemical changes, there will be continued demands for chemical engineers in the future.


ACS awards petrochemical research grant to ChemE Assistant Professor Giannis Mpourmpakis

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (June 20, 2016) … Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, received a $110,000 grant from the American Chemical Society (ACS) for computer modeling research to investigate the conversion of ethane, propane, butane and other alkanes used in the petrochemical industry. The study, “Identifying Structure-Activity Relationships for the Dehydrogenation of Alkanes on Oxides,” will look to gain a fundamental understanding of the dehydrogenation of small hydrocarbons to olefins on metal oxides under experimental conditions. “Olefins are the building blocks for the production of chemicals and plastics,” said Mpourmpakis. “We can avoid the time and money it takes performing experiments in a traditional chemical lab through computer simulations and then design new catalysts, again, without the need to perform tedious experiments.” Pitt researchers will attempt to identify structure-activity relationships (SARs)—the relationships between a molecule’s three-dimensional structure and its catalytic activity—on metal oxides. Although much research has been done on the SARs on metals, the scientific community has little understanding of these relationships on metal oxides. At the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab at Pitt, Mpourmpakis and his team have been successful investigating the dehydration of simple alcohols on various metal oxides. Mpourmpakis’ previous study, “ Structure-activity relationships on metal-oxides: alcohol dehydration,” outlined a simple but powerful model to allow researchers to easily test different alcohols and metal-oxide catalysts according to their dehydration activity and appeared as a cover article of Catalysis Science & Technology published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. “We are building on our previous knowledge of alcohol dehydration on metal oxides and applying the understanding we have of in-silico experimentation to a different scientific problem: the alkane dehydrogenation,” said Mpourmpakis. The ACS will designate Mpourmpakis’ grant as a Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) Grant. DNI grants promote the careers of young faculty by supporting research of high scientific caliber and enhancing the career opportunities of their undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral associates, through the research experience. ### Pictured above: Members of the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (C.A.N.E.LA.) including Natalie Austin, Dr. Mpourmpakis, Pavlo Kostetskyy, Michael Taylor and Xi Peng.
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Four Pitt students among select recipients of Department of Energy scholarships and fellowships for nuclear-related research

Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (May 26, 2016) … Two undergraduate students and two graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have been named scholars and fellows, respectively, of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). The students are among 57 undergraduate scholars and 33 graduate fellows to receive more than $5 million to pursue nuclear energy-related disciplines at universities across the country. Since 2009, the Energy Department has awarded over $33 million to more than 600 students for nuclear energy-related scholarships and fellowships. The undergraduate scholarship winners, Bodhisatwa “Bodhi” Biswas (chemical engineering) and Miriam Rathbun (engineering science) will receive a $7,500 scholarship. The graduate fellowship recipients, Jacob Farber and Lee Maccarone (both mechanical engineering) will receive up to $50,000 annually over the next three years. The graduate fellowships will also include $5,000 toward a summer internship at a U.S. national laboratory or other approved facility to strengthen the ties between students and the Department’s nuclear energy research programs. The selected students will study a breadth of critical nuclear energy issues, from fuel cycle sustainability to reactor efficiency and design.“The NEUP scholars and fellows program is extremely competitive, and so we’re very proud to have four recipients this year,” said Daniel Cole, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of the Stephen R. Tritch Program in Nuclear Engineering at Pitt. “This is the fourth year in a row that our students have been recognized, which reflects highly on both their academic excellence and our program’s strengths.”About NEUPThe U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy initiated Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) in 2009 to consolidate its university support under one program NEUP funds nuclear energy research and equipment upgrades at U.S. colleges and universities, and provides student educational support. NEUP plays a key role in helping the Department of Energy accomplish its mission of leading the nation's investment in the development and exploration of advanced nuclear science and technology. As stated in its Nuclear Energy Roadmap, the Department promotes nuclear energy as a resource capable of meeting the nation's energy, environmental and national security needs by resolving technical, cost, safety, security, and proliferation resistance through research, development and demonstration. For more information, visit www.neup.gov.About Pitt's Nuclear Engineering ProgramPitt’s nuclear engineering program, offered through the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, is the only undergraduate and graduate program of its kind in western Pennsylvania. Established in 2006, the program develops relevant curricula in concert with industry leaders and is supported with grants from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Pittsburgh region hosts one of the highest concentrations of nuclear-power-related companies and expertise, including FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, which operates the Beaver Valley Power Station nuclear power plant in Shippingport; Bechtel Bettis, Inc.; and Westinghouse Electric Company. ###


NSF Grant Funds Study to Develop a Transistor Based on Two-Dimensional Crystals to Lower the Energy Consumption of Electronics

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (May 19, 2016) … Two University of Pittsburgh researchers in the Swanson School of Engineering received a $496,272 grant from the National Science Foundation to study two-dimensional semiconductors with the goal of demonstrating a switch that requires less power than conventional silicon-based transistors. “As electronic devices continue to become more integrated into our daily lives, more energy is required to power these devices,” said Susan Fullerton, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and principle investigator of the study. “On a large scale, decreasing the power requirements of electronics would impact global energy consumption.” Eric Beckman, the George M. Bevier Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, will join Fullerton as co-principle investigator of the study, “A New Approach to Explore the Semiconductor-to-Metal Phase Transition in Two-Dimensional (2D) Crystals Using Ionomers.” The individual layers of 2D crystals can be isolated to make electronic devices that are a single atom or molecule thick. The semiconductor research community has been studying these materials extensively for the past decade as a potential low-voltage replacement for traditional complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) electronics. The key is triggering the material to switch very abruptly from a state in which the flow of charge is restricted (insulator) to a state in which charge can flow easily (conductor) and to do this at low voltage. Fullerton and Beckman will use a type of polymer electrolyte called an ionomer to induce this abrupt switching in the 2D crystal with an applied field. Theoretical predictions indicate that the material can switch states from an insulator to a conductor when a sufficient amount of strain is applied, and Fullerton and Beckman will deliver that strain at low voltage by custom-synthesized ionomers. Beyond nanoelectronics for logic, the research will contribute to the development of materials and phase change devices that respond to electrical, chemical or strain stimuli, with potential application in brain-inspired computing and artificial synapses. ### Pictured above: Dr. Beckman (left) with Dr. Fullerton in the Fullerton Group Lab
Matt Cichowicz, University Communications Contributing Writer and Editor

Pitt's Chemical Engineering professor Susan Fullerton recognized by ORAU for research by junior faculty

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (May 17, 2016) … Susan Fullerton, PhD , Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded a 2016 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). “This is an outstanding accomplishment for a young faculty member, and so we are very proud of Susan’s award,” noted Steven Little, PhD , the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Department Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “The Powe Award is very competitive, and it speaks highly of Susan to receive this during her first year at Pitt.” The Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards provide seed money for research by junior faculty at ORAU member institutions. These awards are intended to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty and result in new funding opportunities. Full-time assistant professors at ORAU member institutions within two years of their initial tenure track appointment at the time of application are eligible. Research areas must fall in one of five disciplines including Engineering and Applied Science, Life Sciences, Mathematics/Computer Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Policy, Management, or Education. Dr. Fullerton and her research group use the interplay between ions and electrons to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic and energy storage. The Powe award will support neutron scattering measurements to characterize the structure of ion-containing polymers used in these devices. Prior to joining Pitt in fall 2015, Dr. Fullerton was a Research Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. She earned her Bachelor of Science and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ###


Ten current and former Pitt engineering students awarded 2016 National Science Foundation Fellowships

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH—Four University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering students and six alumni were awarded the 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Nine engineering students and three alumni received honorable mention. Overall, the recipients were among the ten Pitt students and eight alumni awarded fellowships, and 14 Pitt students and 10 alumni who received honorable mentions. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees. The fellowship program has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The support accorded NSF Graduate Research Fellows nurtures their ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Current Pitt students who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship include: seniors Emily June Crabb (physics and astronomy, computer engineering) and Trent Maxwell Dillon (civil engineering); and graduate students Donald Edward Kline (electrical engineering) and Michael Gilbert Taylor (chemical engineering). Alumni include Kenechi Aretha Agbim (mechanical engineering, Georgia Tech), Emmeline Blanchard (bioengineering, Georgia Tech), Jann Albert Grovogui (materials science engineering, Northwestern University), Lauren Ann Hapach (bioengineering, Cornell University), David William Palm (chemical engineering, Stanford University), and Christopher James Siviy (mechanical engineering). Current students who received an honorable mention are seniors Christian Gerald Bottenfield (electrical engineering), Stephanie Paolo Cortes (electrical engineering), Luke Drnach (computer engineering), Alexander Danels Josowitz (bioengineering) and Saundria Michelle Moed (bioengineering); and graduate students Patrick Andrew Cody (bioengineering), Daniel Ward Long (bioengineering), and Stephanie Anne Wiltman (bioengineering). Alumni include Olivia Annette Creasy (bioengineering, University of California-San Francisco), Kevin Andrew Day (bioengineering, Johns Hopkins University), and Andrew Head (computer engineering, University of California-Berkeley). Visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do for a full list of fellows and honorable mentions and to learn more about the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. ###
Joe Miksch, News Director, University Communications

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