Phillips 66 takes investment in the future seriously. For years, the company 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 ChBE research neighborhoods designated as the Phillips 66 Center for Energy Innovation. These neighborhoods house the energy-related research efforts of 11 ChBE faculty.
During a recent visit to CU, Phillips 66 CEO Greg Garland presented a check as part of the company's last JSCBB gift installment. Garland also took time to visit with students. ChBE undergraduates Brandon Lin and Kelsey Niemeyer were part of an eight-student informal chat with Garland, who spoke about his 30 years of experience in the oil industry. When asked what kept his interest in the oil industry, Garland offered some career advice.
"Be willing to step outside your comfort zone," Garland said. "Your education doesn't stop when you leave the university, it continues forever. You'll become more valuable to your company."
Recognizing the value of a top-rate education, Phillips 66 continues to support the department in areas beyond the building. For instance, the company provides ChBE undergraduate lab course funds, graduate fellowships, Student Annual Research Symposium backing, and funding for student groups such as AIChE.
A number of ChBE undergraduate and graduate students have gone on to work at Phillips 66, including Steve Marshall, who received his PhD in 2010. "My experience at Phillips 66 has provided me with opportunities to network with experts across the energy industry and perform world class research in emerging businesses like renewable fuels," says Marshall.
With such mutually positive experiences, ChBE hopes to continue to partner with Phillips 66 for years to come.
The ChBE co-op program is a professional development education program that allows undergraduate students to alternate professional work experiences with classroom coursework. Students typically complete one year of work at their co-op company, either working continuously or alternating their work experience with academic terms.
We asked three co-op students to tell us what they did during their work sessions and what skills they gained.
CBEN junior John Thilenius is currently finishing up his co-op at Chevron.
Duties: I worked on long-term projects but also had daily duties to keep the refinery running at its peak efficiency. Some of my projects included debottlenecking a side-cut, optimizing the stripping steam in the atmospheric column, building catalyst loading tools, and working on design projects for international clients.
Skills gained: Effective collaboration. I also learned to model a refinery through various programs, and use a particular simulation's flows and parameters in order to size and design the heat exchangers, columns, and vessels. Moreover, the co-op helped show me how the skills I learned in school were used and now I feel I get more out of my classes knowing what to focus on.
CHEN sophomore Andy Willett began his co-op at Sundrop Fuels, Inc. in January of this year.
Duties: A large portion of my co-op has been spent operating a gasification process. My company is also helping me to get a deeper experience by having me spend some time helping build or run other projects.
Skills gained: Acquiring an understanding of how a process is run effectively and how to use and collect data in an effective manner.
Spring 2013 CHEN graduate Tyler Gleditsch completed a co-op at TDA Research, Inc. after his sophomore year.
Duties: I operated bench scale testing apparatuses to characterize sorbent and catalyst properties.
Skills gained: Organization. Teamwork. Public speaking. Professionalism. I took the challenges of my co-op and was able to broaden my understanding / implementation of a problem's solution. I was also able to develop career goals for my next position.
For years, ChBE has been using active learning tools such as student response systems (clickers), qualitative questions that are not answered by memorization (ConcepTests), and short video clips used to present material ranging from derivations to example problems (screencasts). Funding from the National Science Foundation, Shell, and the CU Engineering Excellence Fund (EEF) has allowed ChBE educators to create more than 1400 ConcepTests as well as 800+ screencasts which have received more than 2 million views and downloads.
These new teaching tools have enabled flipped classrooms in ChBE courses. In a flipped classroom, students watch screencasts of traditional lecture material before class. Some of the newer screencasts are interactive, prompting students to make decisions and providing immediate feedback. During class, students benefit from the help of the teacher and classmates as they engage in hands-on learning through ConcepTests and in-class worksheets.
Some professors are also utilizing an active learning technique called TAPPS, or "talking aloud pairs problem solving." Paired students are given a problem; one student listens and asks questions while the other student talks through his or her solution to the problem. "The theory behind TAPPS is that students can focus better on the steps required for problem solutions when they have to talk aloud to a peer," says Professor Will Medlin, who has used TAPPS in his kinetics and thermodynamics courses. "TAPPS also offers a fun change-up from the usual format to help keep students engaged."
While modernizing traditional classes, ChBE is also cognizant of the current trend towards online courses. Senior Instructor Janet deGrazia recently received EEF funding to create an online material and energy balances course. An online ChBE differential equations course is under consideration.
Arun Tholudur received his PhD in 1998 under the direction of ChBE Professor Fred Ramirez, exploring advanced modeling and optimization techniques applied to bioprocesses.
Now director of the Process Engineering Group at Amgen here in Colorado, Arun has remained active as a member of the ChBE External Advisory Board and guest lecturer. He recently shared reflections on CU and his career.
What is your most vivid ChBE-related memory?
My everlasting memory from graduate school has to be the support provided by my advisor, Professor Fred Ramirez. I would walk into Fred's office with a pile of things I had tried the previous week and did not work, but would walk out of his office inspired with the new ideas and pointers for different approaches that fueled me to keep going. This was in the mid to late '90s, in the throes of the dot-com era, when the peer pressure to move into and be a part of the computer software technology revolution was huge. Fred, with his patience and years of multifaceted experience, provided support that ultimately helped me persevere for my PhD.
What advice would you give to current students?
I think there are three skills, in addition to technical competency which is obviously the minimum bar and an absolute expectation, that are critical whether one aspires to stay in academia or industry: Initiative, working in a team setting, and communication.
Whether you are an undergraduate or a graduate student, make the best use of the tremendous infrastructure that's around you. Additionally, don't forget the social aspects of interaction, especially around communication and networking. Technical competence coupled with drive and interpersonal skills are an ideal recipe for success. All of this takes work but nothing in life comes easy and it is well worth the effort.
You have stayed active with ChBE and are a member of the department's External Advisory Board. How has the department changed since you were a student?
The growth in the department has been phenomenal. It looks like there's been a passing of the baton with more than half of the faculty having less than five to eight years in the department. The new building is truly impressive – I joked recently that my PhD timeline would be longer than expected if I were a graduate student today; the facilities rival or exceed many industry laboratories. I think the department has accomplished a lot in its history and is poised for exciting successes.
Let us know what you've been up to! Send us an alumni update using our online form.
Johnny E. Johnson (ChemEngr '67) reports that he is still working and loving what he does!
Harlan Bengtson (PhD ChemEngr '71) is retired and currently active in preparing and marketing low-cost, easy-to-use spreadsheets for engineering calculations through EngineeringExcelSpreadsheets.com.
Brian W. MacArthur (ChemEngr '72) continues to work in Seattle, Washington, at The Chemithon Corporation, where he has been for more than three decades since completing his PhD at the University of Washington in 1977.
Alan F. Willenbrock (ChemEngr/ Bus '83), CFA® is a portfolio manager, vice president, and financial advisor in Morgan Stanley's Wealth Management office in Tucson, Arizona. He was named to the firm's Pacesetter's Club for 2012 and 2013, a global recognition program for financial advisors who, within their first five years, demonstrate the highest professional standards and first-class client service.
William Beaber (ChemEngr '90) is a successful orthodontist and owner of Beaber Family Orthodontics. He has practices in Westminster and Highlands Ranch and recently opened his third practice location in Parker, Colorado.
Heath Briggs (ChemEngr '97) was recently named to the Denver Business Journal's Forty under 40 list. Briggs lives in Broomfield, Colorado with his wife, Missy, and has three children, Maddie (19), Cameron (14) and Aubrie (13).
Michael Polmear (ChBioEngr '11) is looking forward to graduating from Tufts University with an MS in biomedical engineering. He plans to continue to work at McLean Hospital while he applies to medical school. Polmear says he and his wife, Stephanie, are enjoying the Boston area and looking forward to their next adventure.
In addition to her election to the National Academy of Sciences, Distinguished Professor Kristi Anseth was awarded the 2013 Hazel Barnes Prize. The award is the highest recognition given to a CU-Boulder faculty member for research and teaching. ChBE faculty have received this honor three of the 22 times it has been awarded. ChBE's John Falconer was honored in 2008 and Klaus Timmerhaus in 1992.
In addition to receiving the 2013 Boulder Faculty Assembly (BFA) Excellence in Teaching Award, Professor Christine Hrenya was named an Editor for the journal Aerosol Science and Technology.
Associate Chair and Senior Instructor Janet de Grazia received the 2013 BFA Award for Excellence in Service. Janet has now won the BFA awards for both Teaching (2010) and Service.
Assistant to the Chair Jen Gifford received the Employee Recognition Award for April.
Graduate student Justine Roberts (advised by Stephanie Bryant) was awarded a Whitaker Fellowship to conduct post-doctoral research on controlled release of biologics (drugs) from hydrogels for chronic wound healing at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Katie Lewis, a graduate student studying photodegradable microsphere polymerization in microfluidic devices under the direction of Kristi Anseth, received a Whitaker Fellowship to spend the summer collaborating with a group at the University of Queensland in Australia.
Graduate students Tyler Martin (advised by Arthi Jayaraman) and Matt McBride (advised by Chris Bowman) both received 3-year NSF Graduate Fellowships.
Undergraduate students Brittany Earle and Jeni Sorli received prestigious national Goldwater Scholarships. The scholarships are worth up to $7,500 for educational expenses each year.
Undergraduates Taylor Kennedy, Anna McLeland and Kayla Weston won awards at the Discovery Learning Research Symposium in April.
Benjamin Mead and Brandon Lin were chosen by the department to be recognized at the April 26 Awards Banquet as Distinguished Seniors.
Michael Chen, a student at Fairview High School conducting zeolite membrane research in John Falconer's lab, won first place in the Chemistry Division at the Intel Science Fair and also had an asteroid named after himself.