Environmental Catalysis Lab News

    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.

    UVA Engineering’s Catalysis Groups Shine at AIChE Meeting

    December 22, 2022

    Students in UVA chemical engineering’s catalysis groups were well represented as award recipients at the 2022 AIChE Annual Meeting, the biggest yearly gathering of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Among those presenting research were Keka Mandal, a Ph.D. student in assistant professor Chris Paolucci’s computational catalysis group, who won a Catalysis and Reaction Engineering Division Travel Award to attend the meeting. The $400 prize was for her oral presentation on “Effect of Reaction Conditions and SO2 Exposure on Cu Speciation in SSZ13 Zeolites.”

    Dean’s Fellows Kept Research Rolling Through Summer

    August 18, 2022

    This summer, three chemical engineering majors worked full time as Dean’s Undergraduate Engineering Research Fellows through a new initiative created by UVA Engineering Dean Jennifer West. The program provides wages for undergraduates to continue working in faculty labs during the summer.

    In professor Roseanne Ford’s lab, rising fourth-year student Alexandra Cresci spent the summer trying to determine how quickly the Vibrio fischeri microorganism, a bacterium, breaks down microplastics in groundwater. Specifically, she measured the rates at which Vibrio fischeri attaches to the microplastic in correlation with different amounts of surface weathering.

    “My research findings will determine the optimal roughness properties of the microplastic for bacteria attachment to advise the design of future plastic products,” Cresci said.

    Congrats to Ryan for Defending His PhD Thesis

    June 27, 2022

    Congrats to Dr. Ryan Zelinsky for succesfully defending his Ph.D. thesis!

    Natalia and Yu-Ren Go to Interns at General Motors and Cummins

    June 01, 2022

    Natalia and Yu-Ren are off and start their internship at General Motors and Cummins, respectively this summer!

    Farewell Carlos

    May 20, 2022

    Carlos gets his master degree gets a job at Intel. We wish you a bright future.

    Welcome Poonam

    April 30, 2022

    Welcome Poonam Rani, a new postdoc in our group!

    Ph.D. Student in Epling Catalysis Lab, Silvia Marino, Earns Two Travel Awards for Spring Meetings

    April 06, 2022


    Silvia Marino, a Ph.D. student in Professor Bill Epling’s catalysis lab, is working to improve gasoline-engine aftertreatment systems.


    Silvia Marino, a Ph.D. student in Professor Bill Epling’s environmental catalysis lab, has received two competitive travel awards this spring to attend professional conferences.

    Marino was awarded a CATL-ChemCatBio Graduate Student Travel Award to attend the Spring 2022 ACS National Meeting in March, where she spoke on her research, “Rh catalyst structural changes during CO oxidation.” The award is given by the Catalysis Science and Technology (CATL) Division of the American Chemical Society.

    Marino also will present a poster, “Evaluating the effect of Pt-Rh interactions on activity and stability of Pt-Rh/Al2O3 three way catalysts,” at NAM27, the 27th North American Catalysis Society Meeting, in May. Her travel will be supported by a Kokes Award.Both projects investigate catalysts to improve the aftertreatment system of gasoline-engine cars to reduce pollution.        

    Welcome Umberto

    April 01, 2022

    Welcome Umberto Iacobone, a new visiting scholar in our group!

    Farewell Lai

    February 12, 2022

    Farewell Dr. Lai Wei and thank you for helping us and giving us suggestions for the experiments. We wish you a bright future at Cummins.