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.

    Masking Requirement Lifted for NMCF

    March 20, 2022

    Masks and COVID vaccinations are now optional at UVa and within the NMCF, including during for-credit laboratory classes.


    If you have had close contact with someone who has recently tested positive for COVID, please wear a mask in the NMCF facilities per UVa policy.


    If you have significant health concerns where universal masking is advised, please reach out to the appropriate NMCF instrument scientist or class instructor.


    Details concerning UVa's COVID policy for staff & visitors can be found here.



    UVA Chemical Engineering Hosts CHEERS 2022, a Research Symposium and Networking Event

    March 14, 2022


    Department of Chemical Engineering chair Bill Epling gave opening remarks at the annual Chemical Engineering Research Symposium, known as CHEERS. Click HERE for more photos

    CHEERS 2022, UVA’s annual Chemical Engineering Research Symposium, took place Friday, March 11, bringing together graduate students, faculty, alumni and industry experts to showcase research in the department and create networking opportunities for students.

    This year’s keynote speaker was Tucker Norton, Cyrel Solutions general manager at Dupont. Norton, a Louis Rader Award recipient and 1997 chemical engineering Ph.D. alumnus, also received his MBA from the Darden School of Business.

    In addition to students’ oral presentations and poster sessions highlighting research ranging from battery technology to tissue engineering, the daylong symposium included an industry panel in which CHE alumni shared experiences, insights and advice for Ph.D. students preparing to enter the workforce.

    Alan Hunter (Ph.D. 2002), a senior director at AstraZeneca, kicked off the panel with a short presentation. He was then joined by Erica Hui (Ph.D. 2021), an investigator in downstream process development at GSK; Tara Tibbs Jones (M.S. 2001, Ph.D. 2003), vice president drug substance manufacturing at Amgen; and Rob Kasprow (M.S. 1997, Ph.D. 2000), an executive director at Merck.

    CHEERS is organized by members of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Board, led by this year’s coordinator Tori Vigil.

    “CHEERS not only showcases the great research coming out of our department, but also the supportive community that we have built,” said Vigil, a Ph.D. student in her second year. “Seeing our awesome alumni is a reminder that at the end of the day, a CHE Ph.D. from UVA not only represents a rigorous education, but also great personal and professional growth.”

    Other Graduate Board members who were instrumental in organizing the symposium were Greg Grewal, the CHEERS 2020 coordinator, and president Rhea Braun, Vigil said, adding, “Our department first-year students were a tremendous help in day-of behind-the-scenes support.”

    CHEERS 2022 was sponsored by GSK.

    Lazzara Lab Wins Presenter Awards at Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference

    February 22, 2022
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    Brooke McGirr Brown and Karl Kowalewski, Ph.D. students in associate professor of chemical engineering Matt Lazzara’s lab at the University of Virginia, recently won breakout session presentation awards at the Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference.

    Brown earned the breakout session award for presenting, “Signaling regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the hypoxic tumor microenvironment of pancreas cancer.” Kowalewski won for “Cancer-associated fibroblast signaling regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in pancreas cancer.”

    Cancer of the pancreas is one the most deadly cancers, in large measure because the tumors don’t respond well to standard therapies. Both Brown and Kowalewski focus on the mechanisms that cause the tumor cells to resist therapy, with the goal of identifying what processes to target with cancer-killing drugs to overcome the resistance and improve outcomes. Kowalewski specifically homes in on how fibroblasts, cells that form connective tissue and scarring, contribute to therapy resistance.

    The annual Cancer Research Conference, hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center, invites cancer research trainees, such as graduate students and postdoctoral and clinical fellows, to present their work in oral sessions. A goal of the conference is to promote collaboration and networking among clinicians and researchers interested in basic, translational and clinical cancer research.

    Sean Bannon Is Going to NAMS 2022 with Assist from Travel Award

    February 08, 2022

    Sean Bannon, a Ph.D. student in associate professor Geoff Geise’s polymer membrane lab, has been selected for an Elias Klein Founders’ Travel Supplement, which is given by the North American Membrane Society. The award will reimburse Bannon up to $500 for travel expenses to attend NAMS 2022, the society’s annual meeting, to present his research, “Salt transport in sulfonated polysulfone membranes exposed to high salinity.”

    The research will provide insight into how desalination membranes work and into how membranes could be further improved to facilitate water purification and address growing global demand for clean water.

    Congratulations, Sean!

    UVA Team Advances to Semifinal Round of $4 Million Clean-Energy Technology Competition

    January 06, 2022

    A research team led by members of the Department of Chemical Engineering faculty at the University of Virginia has advanced to the second phase of a three-phase, $4 million competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE’s American-Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize is designed to speed development of technologies and techniques for direct extraction of lithium from geothermal brines found in California’s Salton Sea. Lithium – of which all but 1% of the U.S. supply is imported – is a critical material in batteries for electric vehicles and grid-scale electricity storage.

    Associate professors Geoffrey Geise and Gary Koenig and assistant professor Gaurav “Gino” Giri, with industry partner PowerTech Water, make up Team TELEPORT, named for the project’s title, Targeted Extraction of Lithium with Electroactive Particles for Recovery Technology. The team’s concept is one of 15 selected for a $40,000 award and eligibility for the competition’s second phase.

    Ph.D. Student Bev Miller Earned Women in Chemical Engineering Travel Award to Present at AIChE Annual Meeting

    November 17, 2021


    Bev Miller (left, with fellow ChemE Ph.D. student Ashley Conley), a chemical engineering Ph.D. student in assistant professor Steven Caliari’s biomaterials lab at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, recently attended the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting in Boston with support from a 2021 Women in Chemical Engineering Travel Award.

    The award included Miller’s registration for the meeting, an $800 stipend for travel expenses and complimentary membership in AIChE for the 2021 and 2022 calendar years. Earning the award allowed her to present during a poster session for postdoctoral candidates and give a talk on her research, “Guest-Host Supramolecular Assembly of Injectable Hydrogel Nanofibers for 3D Cell Encapsulation and Pelvic Organ Prolapse Repair,” during the conference.

    AZtecTimed is now AZtecFlex

    November 03, 2021

    Heads up if you use AZTtec software for your SEM/TEM analysis.

    AztecTimed is no longer free to download, and has been updated.



    AZtecTimed is now AZtecFlex and for students the licence is discounted, from ($1,399.00) to ($139.00). For more information on how to access this discount as a student, click here.


    AZtecFlex is a 12-month personal subscription licence for installation on your desktop or laptop, designed to let you use AZtec anywhere and without needing to access shared facilities. 

    AZtecFlex includes advanced data processing features, for example, particle analysis and EBSD data processing, allowing you to access them even if they aren’t enabled on the system used to acquire the data.  Your licence will also provide access to the latest AZtec release as soon as it is available.


    Tutorials and Demos can be found here.



    David Green Honored as Scholar-Athlete

    October 13, 2021

    UVA Engineering joins the West Potomac (Virginia) High School Wolverine nation to celebrate its outstanding student athletes, coaches and administrators. David L. Green, associate professor of materials science, chemical, and mechanical engineering is among the 2020 inductees in the West Potomac Athletic Hall of Fame.

    3D Reconstruction Software Now Available for Phenom SEM

    October 07, 2021
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    3D Reconstruction Software is now available on the NMCF Phenom Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).


    3D Reconstruction Software can generate three-dimensional images and provide submicrometer roughness measurements over areas and lines. Calculation of Rz, Rz, and Sa, as well as topographical surface scans and line scans can be acquired. Scans can be displayed as heat maps (image below) or as profiles. Data can be exported to be displayed in user software.


    Details can be found here:

    A brief User Guide is available on Sharepoint, and additional information can be found in the Phenom Manual.

    Note that NMCF has a temporary license (expiration: 1 November 2021), so get your measurements in now!


    Would this software would be a useful permanent addition to the SEM toolkit? Let NMCF know! (email:

    Surface Area Roughness Image.JPG