As a new year approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on the year that was and on some of the “wins” notched by chemical engineering faculty and students. This roundup is by no means inclusive of all the work and accomplishments of our UVA chemical engineering community, but it represents a few of the things we celebrated in 2023 as we look forward to 2024.

These items are presented in no particular order. Click any of the links for more information.


  A highlight of the summer was the inaugural CHE Research Retreat at Wintergreen Resort.

Faculty News

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

Three faculty members were honored at the fourth annual Research Achievement Awards Banquet – meaning CHE faculty claimed a third of the nine university awards:

  • Associate professor Steven Caliari won a Research Excellence Award.
  • Associate professor Bryan Berger won the Public Impact-Focused Research Award.
  • Professor Matthew Lazzara’s Systems Analysis of Stress-Adapted Cancer Organelles Center won a Research Collaboration Award.

Associate professors Gary Koenig, Geoff Geise and assistant professor Gino Giri and their Team TELEPORT were second-place winners in the U.S. Department of Energy’s American Made Geothermal Lithium Extraction Prize – a $500,000 prize. Check out their award-winning technology.

The department held its first ever CHE Research Retreat at Wintergreen Resort in July.

Assistant professor Rachel Letteri and associate professor David Green won the Jefferson Scholars Foundation’s 2023 Hartfield Excellence in Teaching Award, with Letteri becoming the fifth CHE faculty member to win the Hartfield since 2018.

Professor Geise and advisee Sean Bannon won a Best Paper Award from the American Chemical Society journal ACS ES&T Engineering for their 2022 paper, “Counterion Mobility in Ion-Exchange Membranes: Spatial Effect and Valency-Dependent Electrostatic Interaction.”

The editors of Microcirculation selected assistant professor Lakeshia Taite’s image showing vascular sprouting from mouse lung tissue planted on a hydrogel for the cover of the journal’s August issue. Taite’s research that led to publication in Microcirculation resulted in the development of a novel analytical tool in the search to cure idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Graduate Student News

Assistant professor Chris Paolucci Ph.D. advisee Anu Shrestha won a UVA All-University Graduate Teaching Award.

Colby Whitcomb, a Ph.D. student in William Stansfield Calcott Professor of Engineering and Applied Science Robert Davis’ lab, won the 2022 DuPont Safety Award.

Charles Leroux, who is co-advised by Koenig and Geise, led a new outreach program in partnership with Charlottesville City of Promise to bring in local high school students to participate in research.

Leroux, along with fellow Koenig/Geise advisee Caroline Morin, won the South Atlantic Region in the U.S. DOE’s EnergyTech University Prize competition for their pitch, Sustainable Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling. They went on to win second place in the national competition, landing them a $30,000 prize.

Three students in the Lazzara lab earned coveted placements in training programs:

  • Sarah Buchanan was appointed to the National Institutes of Health-funded Cancer Training Program at UVA.
  • Rachel Fetter was appointed to the NIH-funded Biotechnology Training Program at UVA.
  • Karl Kowalewski was awarded a Trainee Fellowship from the UVA Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Undergraduate News

Anupama Jayaraman (B.S. 2023) earned the UVA Engineering Outstanding Student Award for excellent academic performance, leadership and service. The award is among the school’s highest student honors.

Fourth-year chemical engineering major Sunya Qamar and the Society of Women Engineers hosted High School Visitation Day, with lab demos performed by assistant professors Nick Vecchiarello and Rachel Letteri and Ph.D. student Sean Bannon.

Fourth-year chemical engineering major Clare Cocker presented her research with her lab partner at UVA Research Computing’s Women in High-Performance Computing Student Lightning Talks.

New Faces

The department also welcomed three new tenure-track faculty, assistant professors Jason Bates, Camille Bilodeau and Nick Vecchiarello, as well as new student services generalist Sam Caneda as a member of the staff.


 Undergraduate and graduate students in chemical engineering at UVA participated in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting in November 2023.

AIChE News

In early November, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers held its 2023 AIChE Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, where UVA students participated in research presentations and competitions:

  • Clare Cocker, who works in associate professor Kyle Lampe’s biomaterials group, placed third in the Computing and Process Control III undergraduate student poster competition.
  • Fourth-year Alex Hawkins placed third in the Separations III undergraduate student poster competition. Hawkins works in associate professor Gary Koenig’s lab, which focuses on developing new materials for battery applications.
  • Three UVA CHE teams participated in the ChemE-Sports competition at the AIChE meeting, competing in a field of 35 from across the globe. One of the teams included third-year Elli Brna and fourth-year Vadaysha Jefferson. They finished ninth after a technical glitch derailed their charge to the podium. They were, however, named the Safety Sorcerer as the team with the least number of alarms during the competition.
  • Natalia Diaz Montenegro, a Ph.D. candidate in William Epling’s catalysis lab, earned the 2023 Women in Chemical Engineering Travel Award. The award covered Diaz Montenegro’s registration for the annual meeting, a travel stipend and included complementary membership in AIChE for the 2024 calendar year.

And, finally, back in Charlottesville — in case anyone’s keeping track of the AIChE student chapter’s annual turkey-cooking competition — the fourth-year class’s roast bird was deemed the tastiest at the Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner.