January 6, 2014
CU-Boulder's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (ChBE) thrived in 2013, with large grants won by faculty, prestigious awards bestowed upon both faculty and students, and impactful research highlighted in prominent journals. Read about some ChBE highlights from the past year, and keep up with the department by joining us on
Kristi Anseth has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Kristi, who is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, now joins a very select group of scientists/engineers (approximately 15) who are members of all three branches of the National Academies. Kristi also recently won the Hazel Barnes Prize, CU Boulder's top award for excellence in research and teaching.
ChBE Associate Professor and Patten Fellow Ryan Gill and his team have been awarded $9.2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research aimed at engineering E. coli to produce biofuels such as ethylene and isobutanol. “This is a fantastic opportunity to take what we have worked on for the past decade to the next level and develop technologies that are orders of magnitude beyond where we are currently,” says Gill.
CU’s newly established PhD degree program in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) welcomed its first graduate students as well as the first new faculty hire into the program this fall thanks in large part to the efforts of MSE Director and ChBE Distinguished Professor Chris Bowman. “We are really looking forward to establishing a world class materials program at CU and working with new MSE faculty members and students,” says Bowman. "This program builds on the long-term excellence in materials at CU across the sciences and engineering to establish an interdisciplinary doctoral program.”
The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institute of Health has announced that it will provide CU Boulder with a $4.4M Biotechnology Research Partnership grant to study aggregation of therapeutic protein molecules. The Research Partnership is headed by ChBE Prof. Ted Randolph and includes ChBE Prof. Dan Schwartz and additional collaborators.
CU Chemical and Biological Engineering Professors Will Medlin and Dan Schwartz have discovered a way to improve biorefining catalysts used to convert biomass to fuel. Their work, which was recently published in Nature Communications, involves adding alkanethiols to the catalyst to hinder undesirable reactions.
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Al Weimer has been awarded a three-year, $3.6 million grant from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a new process to produce magnesium that can be used to make lightweight vehicle parts. Weimer and his research team will use the grant to develop a new gasification process that uses concentrated solar power to produce both magnesium and synthesis gas, or syngas, a precursor for synthetic gasoline. The procedure includes a novel quenching, or cooling process, to enable a gas-to-solid magnesium phase change inside the reactor.
For years, Phillips 66 has partnered with ChBE, supporting the department’s students, facilities and events along with other CU departments and programs. When the decision was made to build the cutting-edge Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building (JSCBB), Phillips 66 committed $3.5 million toward two research neighborhoods designated as the Phillips 66 Center for Energy Innovation. These neighborhoods house the energy-related research efforts of eleven ChBE professors.
The research groups of Professors Al Weimer and Charles Musgrave have developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel. A paper on the subject was published in the Aug. 2 issue of Science.
Christine Hrenya and collaborators Al Weimer and Dan Schwartz were awarded a $1.5M grant by an international chemical company to model the gas fluidization of cohesive solid particles for applications in fluidized beds. Additionally, Hrenya was awarded $450K from the DOE to investigate the use of solid particles as a heat transfer fluid in concentrating solar power plants and was named an Editor of Aerosol Science and Technology.
In addition to her recently received 2013 Computational Molecular Science and Engineering Forum (CoMSEF) Young Investigator Award, Patten Assistant Professor Arthi Jayaraman has now been honored as a 2014 American Chemical Society (ACS) Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Young Investigator. Jayaraman's work has also been featured in Soft Matter's 2013 Emerging Investigators Issue and in the 2013 Journal of Polymer Science B: Polymer Physics Young Investigators Issue.
Professor Rich Noble received the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) 2013 Innovator of the Year Award at the IChemE Awards and Annual Dinner in the United Kingdom. This international award recognizes the individual who best demonstrates his or her achievements and tangible application of chemical, biochemical and/or process engineering skills to address important economic, environmental or social issues.
ChBE has been on the forefront of innovative teaching for years. The department was an early adopter of student response systems (clickers), which have been used in some ChBE courses with ConcepTests and peer instruction for almost a decade. One champion of clickers and ConcepTests in ChBE courses has been Professor John Falconer, who was the featured educator in the Spring 2013 issue of Chemical Engineering Education. “Using ConcepTests and clickers totally changes the classroom and involves student much more in their learning. They also provide me with instant feedback on how much students understand,” says Falconer.
Assistant Professor Prashant Nagpal has received the prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for his proposal, "Using 'Hot' Carriers for Photovoltaics and Photocatalysis." The award carries a five-year, $500,000 grant to support his proposed research, education and outreach activities.
Other ChBE Student Awards:
Nanoly Bioscience and the University of Colorado recently entered into an option agreement that will enable the startup company to develop a technique developed in the labs of ChBE Distinguished Professor Kristi Anseth for protecting vaccines during delivery to rural and less-developed areas of the world. Anseth’s group created a unique “nano-polymer” material that can be customized and blended with any vaccine to protect against thermal damage during transportation, ultimately improving vaccine availability in remote locations.
ChBE graduate students hosted 87 middle school students on May 11 for a Science & Engineering Field Day at the JSCBB. "The goal of the day was to raise awareness and enthusiasm of science and engineering through fun and engaging hands-on activities” explained fifth year graduate student and event organizer Tania Tauer. The day was split into four 1-hour sessions, each exposing students to a different challenge faced by practicing scientists and engineers.