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Washington State University
The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Golden Graduates Return for Reunion

Golden Graduates from the WSU Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering
(l to r) James Petersen, Susannah Graedel, Tom Graedel, Jim Huff, Larry Petershagen, Dawn Petershagen, and Chuck Mackdanz in the Unit Ops Lab
(photo taken April 28, 2010, photo courtesy of Tom and Susannah Graedel)

Last month Golden and Diamond Graduates from the classes of 1950 and 1960 returned to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington as guests of the Alumni Association. The reunion spanned April 28–29, 2010 and included a variety of events all over campus. Alumni had an opportunity to tour WSU; meet current students, faculty, and staff; get a glimpse into some of the research being done here on campus; and reconnect with old friends.

The College of Engineering and Architecture (CEA) tour began with student presentations. Afterwards, alumni were welcomed by Dean Candis Claiborn and enjoyed lunch together with CEA students, faculty and staff. The rest of their time in the college was spent touring including a tour of the Unit Ops lab. As undergraduates, the alumni in the photo above spent many hours working together in the old Unit Ops lab.

Tom Graedel who was presented with the Alumni Achievement Award during the reunion stated, “It was a great pleasure for me to see my classmates of long ago, all of whom have had interesting and successful careers. Each of us obviously benefited from our years at WSU, and the enthusiasm and commitment of today’s students and faculty make it obvious that those benefits continue.”

“My wife Susannah joins me in thanking you for a truly memorable visit to the land of the cougars!”

“Finally, here is a picture from the great tour of the Unit Ops lab (see photo above). For several of us, the highlight was our reunion with the distillation tower. Apparently old soldiers and old equipment never die.”

Thank you to everyone who attended and to everyone who helped organize this memorable week at the WSU campus.

David Ensor Honored With Voiland School Distinguished Alumnus Award

David Ensor
David Ensor received the Violand School Distinguished Alumnus Award
on May 9, 2010

David Ensor went green before it was cool. One could say he was on the environmental bandwagon early when no one could have foreseen it would be a major trend over the next four decades.

“I made the decision to go into environmental engineering before the first Earth Day; this was before the Environmental Protection Agency,” Ensor said. “People thought I was absolutely nuts.”

Ensor was recently honored with the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering Distinguished Alumnus Award.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from WSU in 1963, he got his master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Washington. It was while in graduate school that Ensor decided to use his chemical engineering training in the environmental field.

“I wanted to do something a little more relevant to our future,” he said. “One reason I made this decision was it seemed to me that the problems in the environment needed to be solved.”

He also met his wife, Sally, who was a student in the Department of Library Science at the University of Washington. His career choice made sense to her because “Basically, he was either outdoors hiking and mountain climbing or studying and working in the lab,” she said.

Ensor went on to become an expert in aerosol and air pollution science. In recent years, he has been applying his aerosol expertise to nanotechnology research and international standards development as a United States delegate to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

His work has ranged from some of the first air quality projects in Southern California to recent research into how indoor air filters work. He worked for Meteorology Research Inc of Altadena, CA and is currently employed by RTI International in North Carolina. During the last 38 years, he has managed departments and centers performing projects for EPA, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Electrical Power Research Institute, and private corporations.

Currently as a RTI Senior Fellow, Ensor is editing a book about the history of aerosol science in addition to his research responsibilities. He has several patents, almost 200 publications, recognition as one of the Founding Editors-in-Chief of Aerosol Science and Technology, and several prestigious awards, including the Hammer Award from the White House during the Clinton Administration and the Meritorious Service Award from the American National Standards Institute.

Ensor credits a variety of things for his success, including a high school shop class that taught him about designing projects and finishing them, the importance of a strong work ethic, and how to draft technical plans.

“It’s not about which classes you take, it’s what you get out of them and how you apply them,” he said.

Although he moved on, he also always remembers the impact of WSU.

“I came from a small high school (Reardan Washington), went to WSU, and, in four years, I was employable,” he said. “Almost everyone from WSU can say that.”

In particular, he credits former CEA faculty member and the first Chemical Engineering Department Chair, George Austin, with inspiring him to move into environmental research.

“Austin was quite an individual. He used to tell stories illustrating the importance of identifying and solving the right problems. That’s one reason I decided to go into the environmental field,” Ensor said. “Without inspiration of the contrarian world view George Austin had, I probably wouldn’t have made that decision.”

He was surprised and honored to receive the award. It means a lot to him to be recognized, he says, but his selection is “still a mystery.”

“I don’t feel like I have done anything significant at this point. It’s a lot of little things,” Ensor said. “I haven’t saved the environment yet but we’re working on it.”

Commemorating Professor James M. Lee

James Lee
James Lee
Dr. James Lee, a chemical engineering professor for almost 30 years, passed away in April from lung cancer.

Lee’s research into cancer treatments may have played a role in ultimately extending his own life, says Jim Petersen, director of the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

Lee, who was a non-smoker, conducted research in using tobacco leaves to produce proteins used in cancer treatment, producing tobacco cell cultures that contained mammalian proteins. The researchers chose the tobacco leaf because it was fast-growing and had been extensively studied, not realizing the irony of their choice until later. In particular, the researchers produced proteins used for communication between blood cells and for the production of colonies of white blood cells, both of which are thought to play a role in immune response. They also produced a protein that could be used in diagnostic laboratory tests.

Lee hoped that the use of the plant-based protein production would lead to less expensive and more effective cancer treatments.

Not only a researcher while at WSU, Lee also enjoyed teaching and maintained a focus on his students. He wrote a well-used textbook on biochemical reaction engineering.

“Despite his struggles with cancer, he was engaged in the classroom with students until a few weeks ago,” said Candis Claiborn, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture. “Many students have expressed how much he cared about them and that, from him, they learned the essence of chemical engineering and the importance of the spiritual, intellectual, artistic, and interpersonal aspects of a balanced life.”

Lee, who was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1946, received his master’s degree there in chemical engineering. With his wife, Inn Soo Sohn, and his daughter, Young Jean, he came to the United States in 1976. He received his doctorate from the University of Kentucky and began teaching at WSU in 1983.

Read James M. Lee’s obituary at WSU Today