CU Chemical and Biological Engineering: Highlights of 2013

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 AnsethKristi Anseth Inducted into All Three Branches of the National Academies

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.

Related link: Kristi Anseth Wins 2013 AIChE James E. Bailey Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Biological Engineering

Ryan GillDOE Grants Ryan Gill and Team $9.2 Million DOE to Engineer E. coli to Produce Biofuels

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.

MSE Director Chris BowmanChris Bowman Directs New Materials Science and Engineering Program

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.”

Related links: Bowman and Stansbury Receive NIH Grants for Dental Composite Research; 3M Licenses Dental Polymer Technology Developed by Bowman-Led Team

Ted RandolphNIH Awards Ted Randolph and Team $4.4M to Study Aggregation of Therapeutic Proteins

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.

Nature article by Medlin SchwartzWill Medlin and Dan Schwartz's Biorefining Catalysis Work Published in Nature Communications

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.

Related link: Dan Schwartz Elected to Chair Line of ACS Colloid and Surface Chemistry Division

Al WeimerAl Weimer Awarded $3.6 Million for New Method to Produce Magnesium for Auto Parts

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.

Phillips 66 CEO Greg Garland presents a $3.5M check to CU. From left, Leeds School of Business Dean David Ikenberry, Chancellor Phil DiStefano, Phillips 66 Vice President of HR Chantal Veevaete, Phillips 66 CEO Greg Garland, and College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Robert Davis. Phillips 66 Commits $3.5M Toward Phillips 66 Center of Energy Innovation

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.

Multi-tube solar reactorScience Showcases Al Weimer and Charles Musgrave's New Water Splitting Technique for Hydrogen Production

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.

Gustavo Joseph, Joe Kozlowski, and Christine Hrenya test their a fluidized bed used for segregation experiments.Christine Hrenya Receives $2M in Grants for Particle Research

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.


Arthi JayaramanArthi Jayaraman Wins 2013 AIChE CoMSEF and 2014 ACS PMSE Young Investigator Awards

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.

Rich NobleRich Noble Honored with IChemE Innovator of the Year Award

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.

Related links: Rich Noble Gives Colorado Public Radio Interview on Ionic Liquid-Based Fabrics; Rich Noble Receives 2013 NSPE Engineering Education Excellence Award

Professor John Falconer working on the website. John Falconer Featured for Innovative Teaching in Chemical Engineering Education

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.

Nagpal research

Prashant Nagpal Receives NSF CAREER Award

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.

Related link: Nagpal Group Converts Heat Efficiently into Visible Light

Jia ChewJia Chew Awarded 2013 AIChE Best Ph.D. Thesis in Particle Technology

Other ChBE Student Awards:

Anushree ChatterjeeWelcome New Faculty




Nanoly CEO Balaji Sridhar (third from left) and other members of the Nanoly Bioscience team. Tech Transfer: Nanoly Bioscience to Develop CU-Boulder Vaccine Stabilization Technology

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.

Students explored the field of catalysis in the Medlin Lab, watching Rudy Kahsar demonstrate a catalytic reaction in the lab’s fume hood.In the Community: ChBE Hosts 87 Middle School Students for a Science & Engineering Field Day

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.

Related link: ChBE Members Volunteer at the Pinhead Institute’s Punk Science Series

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