Students talk with peers, faculty and alumni during a CHEERS 2023 poster session.

The UVA Department of Chemical Engineering recently held its annual CHEERS event, the Chemical Engineering Research Symposium.

Each year the CHE Graduate Board organizes the research showcase to shine a light on the breadth and depth of research happening in the department — everything from remediating dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“forever chemicals”) in the environment to engineering biomaterials that could lead to life-saving medicines.

During the day long symposium, graduate students hone critical communication skills through oral and poster presentation sessions in which they explain their research to peers, faculty and guests, including alumni and industry representatives. There is also a keynote speaker and industry panel in which UVA chemical engineering alumni share experiences, insights and advice for Ph.D. students preparing to enter the workforce.

Research awards were given in the following categories:

Oral Presentations

1st place – Asanka Wijerathne, Copper Cation Speciation Under Solid-state Ion-exchange Conditions in Zeolites: A Computational Study. Advisor: Chris Paolucci

2nd place – Madison Mann, Design of a biological system for detection of poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances. Advisor: Bryan Berger

3rd place – Vince Gray, Designing heterochiral coiled coils for enhanced binding and enzymatic stability in biomaterials. Advisor: Rachel Letteri

Poster Session I (fourth- and fifth-year grad students)

1st place – Israt Duti, Engineering peptide biomaterials with tunable mechanics and proteolytic stability. Advisor: Rachel Letteri

2nd place (tie) – Jenna Sumey, Stiffening viscoelastic hydrogels to investigate nuclear remodeling during fibroblast activation. Advisor: Steven Caliari

2nd place (tie) – Natalia Diaz Montenegro, Optimizing Regeneration Conditions after SO2 Poisoning of Spinel-containing CH4 Oxidation Catalysts. Advisor: William Epling

Poster Session II (2nd- and 3rd-year grad students)

1st place – Sugandha Verma, Combined Experimental and Microkinetic Analysis for the Low-Temperature Formation of Nitrous Oxide on Pt/Al2O3. Advisor: Chris Paolucci

2nd place – Gabriel Dickey, Stability of Transition Metal Single Atom Catalysts on Nitrogen Carbon Supports and their Potential for Performing CO Oxidation. Advisor: Chris Paolucci

3rd place – Charles Leroux, Transport Property Modulation via Solvent Specific Behavior in Cross-Linked Non-Aqueous Membranes. Advisors: Gary M. Koenig, Geoffrey M. Geise

This year’s event was coordinated by Tori Vigil, a student in associate professor Bryan Berger’s lab, and Sammy Fieser, in associate professor Joshua Choi’s lab, with help from members of the Graduate Board.