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.

    2023 CHE Summer Research Ranged From AI to Filtration Technology

    August 25, 2023


    Lauren Hernon (pictured above) was one of many UVA chemical engineering undergraduates working on summer research projects who showcased their work at the department’s annual poster symposium (below). There was once again excellent participation in summer research, with undergraduates working with faculty and graduate student mentors on air filtration and energy technologies, tissue engineering for health, advancing scientific understanding using AI techniques and other projects.

    Hernon worked in assistant professor Gino Giri’s lab with Ph. D. student Ankit Dhakal developing coatings for fabrics that dramatically improve the textile’s ability to filter particulate matter. The technology turns inexpensive fabrics into washable filters that are highly effective against viruses and air pollution, and which can be integrated into everyday items such as face masks, hijabs and curtains.

    ChemE Ph.D. Student Wins Poster Award for Research to Understand Cancer-Related Biochemical Processes

    July 31, 2023

    Chemical engineering Ph.D. student Sung Hyun “Sarah” Lee won the W.H. Peterson Award for Best Student Presentations in the poster category at the 2022 American Chemical Society National Meeting. The award is given by the ACS Division of Biochemical Technology.

    Lee, who works in professor Matthew Lazzara’s Cell Signaling Engineering Lab, won for her project, “Distillation of global sensitivity and sloppiness analysis results explains consequences of low plasma membrane RAF abundance in EGFR-ERK signaling.”

    In a Linkedin post, Lazzara wrote Lee’s graduate research aims to understand cell signaling and cancer mechanisms through the use of computational models and advanced sensitivity analysis methods that help identify the most important determinants of signaling.

    Cell signaling is the biochemical process cells use to make decisions about virtually everything they do — migrate, differentiate, survive, die and more. Signaling is critical to normal development and health, and aberrant signaling leads to numerous diseases, including cancer. Thus, the ability to engineer signaling processes or intervene effectively in aberrant signaling has huge medical implications, according to Lazzara’s lab website.

    Lazzara is a professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering and he is a member of the UVA Cancer Center. His lab integrates experimental and computational methods to study fundamental aspects of cell signaling regulation and applied aspects of cell signaling, including how well drug therapies target particular signaling pathways in cancer.

    UVA Professor Earns American Chemical Society Award for Work in Purifying Biological Products

    June 27, 2023

    Lawrence R. Quarles Professor of Chemical Engineering Giorgio Carta has received the 2023 Alan S. Michaels Award in Recovery of Biological Products from the American Chemical Society’s Division of Biochemical Technology.

    The nominated award is given biannually to recognize outstanding research contributions toward the advancement of the isolation and purification of biological products. As this year’s recipient, Carta will give a presentation on his research as part of the recognition ceremony at BIOT 2023 at the American Chemical Society’s fall meeting. This year, the fall conference will be held in August in San Francisco.

    Carta is internationally known across academia and industry for his research, leadership and mentorship in the bioseparations community.

    More information on ACS Division of Biochemical Technology awards, including the Alan S. Michaels Award, can be found on the ACS BIOT awards page.

    Steven Caliari Named Copenhaver Fellow

    June 09, 2023


    Dean Jennifer L. West presents associate professor of chemical engineering Steven Caliari with a certificate declaring him a University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science Copenhaver Fellow.

    Steven R. Caliari has been named a University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science Copenhaver Fellow.

    The title comes with an annual salary bonus and $5,000 in discretionary funds to support research and scholarship. Caliari will hold the title for three years or until he is promoted to full professor.

    Caliari joined UVA’s faculty in August 2016 as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering with a secondary appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He was promoted to associate professor in 2022. He previously was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Caliari’s lab designs, synthesizes and characterizes new biomaterials to explore the dynamic interplay between cells and their microenvironment, applying these platforms to address fundamental human health challenges in understanding disease and engineering tissues.

    In 2020 Caliari received two prestigious early-career funding awards to support his lab’s biomaterials program, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award for Early-stage Investigators from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

    He also was named one of 12 Young Innovators of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, a journal of the Biomedical Engineering Society, an honor recognizing some of the most innovative and impactful bioengineering studies carried out by junior faculty in the field.

    ChemE Ph.D. Student Wins an All-University Graduate Teaching Award

    May 11, 2023

    University of Virginia chemical engineering Ph.D. student Anukriti Shrestha has won a UVA All-University Graduate Teaching Award.

    Shrestha was honored along with other winners and nominees from across UVA by the Office of the Provost and Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs. Since 1990, the provost’s office has presented University-wide Graduate Teaching Awards, highlighting and honoring the University’s graduate students for commitment and excellence in undergraduate instruction.

    “It is a well-deserved honor for Anu’s outstanding work with ChemE students as a TA, co-instructor for Materials and Energy Balances, the department’s foundational course, and mentor to undergraduates,” said William S. Epling, department chair and Alice M. and Guy A. Wilson Professor of Chemical Engineering.

    Shrestha works in assistant professor Chris Paolucci’s computational catalysis research group.

    Bioseparations Team’s Paper Featured on Journal Cover

    May 02, 2023

    University of Virginia Lawrence R. Quarles Professor of Chemical Engineering Giorgio Carta and his postdoctoral researcher, Xue Mi, have made the cover of Biotechnology Progress.

    Their paper, “Protein adsorption on core‐shell resins for flow‐through purifications: Effect of protein molecular size, shape, and salt concentration,” first published online in September 2022, is featured on the cover of the journal’s January/February 2023 edition.

    The paper is co-authored with industry collaborators, Sheng‐Ching Wang and Michael A. Winters.

    Carta is well known across academia and industry for his contributions to process chromatography and bioseparations technologies through research and education.

    NMCF Named Part of Gov. Youngkin’s Virginia Alliance for Semiconductor Technology

    April 27, 2023


    NMCF Staff 1 (3).JPG

    Along with the University of Virginia’s Innovations in Fabrication Lab (IFAB), the Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility (NMCF) has been earmarked as part of the Virginia Alliance for Semiconductor Technology (VAST), which was announced by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin on April 21, 2023.

    This $3.3 million initiative is designed to train a 21st-century workforce for the semiconductor and nanotechnology industries via the development of three targeted certification programs: (1) Chip Fabrication and Nano Characterization, (2) Semiconductor Packaging and Characterization and (3) Semiconductor Equipment Maintenance and Repair.

    Approximately 300 students will be solicted for the training opportunities each year, with underrepresented populations and veterans specifically targeted. Additionally, approximately 100 internships will be available. 

    The VAST initiative was developed by Virginia Tech professor Masoud Agah, who recognized the expertise, leadership and state-of-the-art instrumentation currently available throughout the state of Virginia — but in disparate locations. This project will tie together important resources at the University of Virginia (IFAB and NMCF), with VIrginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, Norfolk State University and Northern Virginia Community College, which will act as separate nodes for the training program.

    NMCF, under the leadership of professor John Scully and the management of Richard White, will provide essential materials characterization instrumentation training opportunites to VAST students and sample analysis to collaborating institutions. 

    More information about VAST and the VAST Alliance can be found on the Governor’s website.

    Chemical Engineering Graduate Board Hosts CHEERS 2023 Research Symposium

    April 01, 2023


    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.