ChemE Briefs

Welcome to ChemE Briefs, a place to find quick notes and posts from the faculty, students, staff and alumni of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Virginia.

    Lampe Lab Has Article in Press in Journal of The American Chemical Society

    April 10, 2019

    James Tang, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate, is the lead author with Assistant Professor Kyle Lampe of “Stimuli-Responsive, Pentapeptide, Nanofiber Hydrogel for Tissue Engineering.” The article is in press in the Journal of The American Chemical Society. Cameron Mura, a senior scientist in the Bourne Lab associated with UVA’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and School of Data Science.

    Department Chair Earns ‘Advisor of the Year’ Honors for Graduate Research Support

    April 01, 2019

    Professor William S. “Bill” Epling, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, was honored by the Graduate Engineering Student Council as the 2019 Advisor of the Year among UVA Engineering faculty. The award, given for exceptional support in graduate research, was presented at the 15th annual University of Virginia Engineering Research Symposium.

    Natalia Diaz, a Ph.D. student in Epling’s lab, supported his nomination for the award in part because it’s clear that he cares about the well-being of his students both in and out of the lab.

    “Professor Epling’s always available whenever I encounter a challenge,” she said. “His mentorship made my transition into research a lot easier.”

    Kevin Gu has known Epling since they were both at the University of Houston, when Gu was an undergraduate there.

    “As a graduate faculty member, Professor Epling does an excellent job bridging the gap between undergraduate and graduate study and research on the student’s level. My experience working with him as an undergraduate student was unforgettable,” Gu said. “He definitely impacted my self-confidence and made a huge difference in my career planning. I started to realize my enthusiasm for academic research and saw my potential to make a greater impact in the chemical engineering industry.”

    When Epling left Houston to become chair of the department at UVA, Gu came with him as a graduate student, and they built Epling’s catalysis lab from scratch. Gu appreciates the expertise he gained through the process, noting Epling’s patience and steady guidance.

    “He has taught me to solve problems as part of my education,” Gu recalled. “The lab was functional by the end of the first year, but more importantly, I became an expert in designing and constructing reactors for specific research purposes.

    “As my Ph.D. advisor, Professor Epling is a mentor, friend, career development consultant and the force that drives me to be perfect.”


    ChemE Third-year Writes Winning Abstract in Annual Graduate Student Contest

    March 29, 2019

    The winners of the 2019 Graduate Writing Lab Abstract Writing Contest have been announced. Congratulations to ChemE’s own Xueying Zhao for winning first place. Zhao is a third-year Ph.D. student and research assistant in Professor Roseanne Ford’s lab. The judging panel also gave ChemE fifth-year Yuanyuan Ji, an assistant in Assistant Professor Geoff Geise’s lab, an honorable mention.

    The second-place spot went to third-year electrical engineering Ph.D. student Vaibhav Verma, and Engineering Systems and Environment’s Wenjian Jia, a second-year civil engineering Ph.D. student, took third. Also receiving honorable mentions were Benjamin Bowes of the Engineering Systems and Environment Department, a third-year Ph.D. student studying civil engineering, and Qiyuan Lin and William Blades, both third-years in materials science and engineering.

    The writing lab’s contest organizers thank the 2019 judges: George Prpich, Rachel Letteri, Steven Allen, Geoff Geise, Amir Chamaani, Archie Holmes, Chloe Dedic and Ahmed Rasin.

    ChemE’s Rachel Letteri Receives Trigon Teaching Award

    February 01, 2019

    The Trigon Engineering Society has awarded Assistant Professor Rachel Letteri the 2019 Thomas E. Hutchinson Award for “Outreach to students, enthusiastic lectures, obvious love of teaching, and contributions to the Engineering School.” Prof. Letteri joined the Department of Chemical Engineering in August.


    Researchers’ Work Featured on Cover of Bioseparations Journal

    January 29, 2019

    Work by 2017 Ph.D. graduate Mimi Zhu and fourth-year candidate Preston Fuks was featured on the cover of a special issue of the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology dedicated to Bioseparations. Additionally, the publication used a figure submitted by the researchers on the journal cover.

    The research, conducted in Professor Giorgio Carta’s Bioseparations Lab as a part of their doctoral dissertations, provides an understanding of protein adsorption of transport in novel chromatographic resins being developed for the purification of biopharmaceutical proteins. It is titled “Protein adsorption in anion exchange resins — effects of polymer grafting, support structure porosity and protein size.”

    “Using advanced microscopy tools, Mimi and Preston were able to visualize how proteins partition and diffuse into the chromatographic resins, providing an unparalleled understanding of the relationship between the architecture of the resins and their bioseparation process performance,” Carta said.

    Carta Lab alumni Promoted to Director of Manufacturing at AMGEN

    January 28, 2019

    Alumnus Ernie X. Pérez Almodóvar recently was promoted to director of manufacturing at Amgen in Juncos, Puerto Rico, where he has worked since earning his Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 2012. Pérez Almodóvar was a researcher in Lawrence R. Quarles Professor Giorgio Carta’s Bioseparations Lab while studying at UVA. In 2012, he earned the Louis T. Rader award.

    He joined Amgen’s downstream processes development team as a scientist, becoming a process development senior scientist and senior manager in 2016. In 2017, he was accepted into Amgen’s Operations Leaders Program and moved to the Formulation and Fill facility as a senior manager to complete his first rotation. During his time at the Formulation and Fill facility, and in collaboration with the rest of the senior management leaders, his teams supported multiple new product introductions, decreased disposition cycle time, and implemented improvement projects that led to increased production in 2018 to more than 50 million units.

    In his current role, Pérez Almodóvar’s manufacturing team is responsible for approximately 80 percent of the formulation and fill production for Amgen worldwide.

    In addition to his work at Amgen, Pérez Almodóvar has provided support to community-based organizations such as Casa Pueblo in Adjuntas, an environmental organization focusing on changing the energy landscape and conservation education in Puerto Rico.


    Choi Lab Publishes Article in Nature Communications

    January 15, 2019
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    Alex Chen, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate, is the lead author with Assistant Professor Josh Choi of “Origin of vertical orientation in two-dimensional metal halide perovskites and its effect on photovoltaic performance.” The article appeared in Nature Communications, a publication of the premier scientific journal Nature. Other students in Choi’s lab who contributed to the article are Michelle Shiu, Jennifer Ma, Matthew Alpert, Depei Zhang, Benjamin Foley, Detlef-M. Smilgies and Seung-Hun.


    ‘Case of the Disappearing Protein Peak’ Is a Winner

    January 15, 2019

    Congrats to 2018 Ph.D grad Arch Creasy, whose presentation took the ‘Best of BIOT’ prize at the spring National Meeting of the American Chemical Society’s Division of Biochemical Technology.