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The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

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

Thomas Graedel Receives Alumni Achievement Award

Thomas Graedel with Dean Claiborn
Dean Claiborn presents Thomas Graedel with the Alumni Achievement Award at WSU on April 28, 2010
 James Petersen, Thomas Graedel, Susannah Graedel, and Richard Zollars
(l to r) James Petersen, Thomas Graedel, Susannah Graedel, and Richard Zollars

In 1970, the Board of Directors of the Washington State University Alumni Association created the Alumni Achievement Award to recognize and honor alumni who have given outstanding service to Washington State University and/or outstanding contributions to their community and/or profession and/or nation. The Alumni Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Alumni Association. Since its conception WSU has awarded 483 deserving alumni. Our Alumni Achievement Award recipients make up .0019% of the estimated quarter of a million people who have attended WSU over the years. Today, Thomas Graedel was honored with the Alumni Achievement Award.

Upon the completion of his PhD, Dr. Graedel began a distinguished career with the AT&T Bell Laboratories. During his tenure with Bell Labs he was elevated to the position of Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. In 1996 he left Bell Labs to become the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Industrial Ecology at Yale University, a position he holds today. His research career started in typical areas such as solar physics, chemical kinetic modeling of gases and droplets in the atmosphere, and corrosion of materials by atmospheric species before transforming into the areas of atmospheric change and industrial ecology and sustainability science. It is in these later areas where his truly exceptional achievements lie.

James Petersen, Thomas Graedel, and Richard Zollars
(l to r) James Petersen, Thomas Graedel, and Richard Zollars

In 1979 Dr. Graedel, along with Jean McRae of Bell Labs, began work demonstrating that urban carbon dioxide data mimicked the trends seen in remote areas. This was followed by work showing that methane and carbon monoxide from human activities were contributing to the warming of the Earth. In the mid-1990s Dr. Graedel, along with Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, wrote an undergraduate text (Atmospheric Change: An Earth System Perspective) and a companion volume for the lay public (Atmosphere, Climate and Change) that were described in 1994 in the journal, Nature, as doing“… an amazing job of introducing the reader to the large-scale issues of today and the future.” The latter won the American Meteorological Society’s Louis J. Battan Author’s Award in 1995.

Jim Petersen and Thomas Graedel
Dr. Jim Petersen, director of the Voiland School with Thomas Graedel

Since 1990 Dr. Graedel’s interests have been focused on industrial ecology and sustainability. He is the senior author of the text Industrial Ecology that has been recognized as the first text in this newly emerging area. He is also the senior author of four other related texts. His environmental assessment matrix, developed while assessing AT&T products, is now a standard industrial tool for streamlined life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of products, processes, and facilities.

The true impact of his work can be seen in the degree to which his publications are cited by others. As of the end of 2005 Dr. Graedel’s papers and books have been cited more than 3900 times. This places his citation record in the top 1/3 of 1% of all active scientists. His impact can also be judged by the honors he has received. In addition to the honors described above he has also been named as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

Speaking on behalf of the WSU Alumni Association, the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, the College of Engineering and Architecture and the University, we are proud to have Tom as one of our distinguished alumni. We are proud that Tom is a member of the Cougar family.

Read about Golden Graduate Reunion

Voiland Team Takes 1st Place at AIChE Pacific Northwest Reaction Car Competition

Winning Reaction Car Team, 2010
(l to r) Eric Holland, Laura Coon, Tim Ginder, Dillon Ford, and Prof. Richard Zollars

Advised by Dr. Richard Zollars, the team of chemical engineers from the Voiland School took 1st place in the Pacific Northwest Regional AIChE reaction car competition, which was held last week. The meeting was attended by students from other chemical engineering departments around the northwest, including the University of Idaho, Montana State University, Oregon State University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Washington. The team will next compete in the national competition in conjunction with the AIChE National Meeting, which will be held in Salt Lake City in November, 2010.

Haluk Beyenal Receives 3M Nontenured Faculty Grant

Haluk Beyenal
Haluk Beyenal

Dr. Haluk Beyenal recently received a 3M Nontenured Faculty Grant. This award is administered by 3M Research and Development in partnership with the Corporate Giving Program. It recognizes outstanding new faculty for the quality and pertinence of their research and is intended to help young faculty achieve tenure, remain in their teaching position, and conduct research.

Sarah Zeutschel Awarded the NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Scholorship in Science and Engineering

Sarah Zeutschel
Sarah Zeutschel

Sarah Zeutschel has been awarded the NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Scholarship in Science and Engineering. She will continue her work with Professor Haluk Beyenal. The award was made in recognition of her outstanding academic achievements and will facilitate her continued success in research at Washington State University. Her research focuses on how electrons are transferred from microbes to the solid phase electron acceptors.

Studies have shown that students who participate in an undergraduate research experience effectively integrate coursework, enabling them to more quickly become productive engineers. For these reasons, we are extremely pleased that NASA has enabled an outstanding student like Sarah to conduct research by working with a member of our faculty.

NASA Space Grant Fellowships Awarded to Our Students

Prof. Haluk Beyenal, Jerome Babauta, Sarah Zeutschel, Prof. Bernard J. VanWie and Sarah Haarsma.
(l to r) Prof. Haluk Beyenal, Jerome Babauta, Sarah Zeutschel, Prof. Bernard J. VanWie and Sarah Haarsma.

Three Voiland School students were selected to receive NASA Space Grant Fellowships in recognition of their outstanding academic achievements. The awards will facilitate their continued success in research. Campus-wide, 12 graduate fellowships and 6 undergraduate fellowships were awarded. Thus, Voiland School students received a disproportionately high fraction of the fellowships which were awarded. Sarah Zeutschel received the undergraduate fellowship. Sarah is working with Prof. Haluk Beyenal. Ms. Zeutschel’s research focuses on how electrons are transferred from microbes to solids. This work has application in fuel cells and wound healing. Graduate fellowships were awarded to Jerome Babauta and Sarah Haarsma. Mr. Babauta, who is seeking his PhD in chemical engineering working with Prof. Beyenal, studies electron transfer mechanisms in biofilms with an emphasis on microbial fuel cells. Ms. Haarsma is seeking her MS degree working with Prof. Bernard J. VanWie and is developing a unique detector for monitoring heart health. This device may be used to monitor the health of astronauts during extended space travel.

Faculty Contribute to New Energy Initiatives

The Secretary of Energy recently announced significant new initiatives, including the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, which is to be led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Voiland School faculty in Pullman and at the Bioproducts Science and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) at WSU/TriCities will contribute to the execution of these projects. Voiland Distinguished Professor Yong Wang, who is a joint WSU/PNNL employee, will play a key role in catalytic pyrolysis and catalyst development related to syngas conversion and novel approaches to remove oxygen from biomass. WSU STAR Researcher and Voiland School Faculty member, Birgitte Ahring, the Director of the WSU Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy, will do pretreatment of biomass raw materials to create a dedicated sugar stream, which will be supplied to the different partners in the project. This work will make use of the newly established pilot facility at BSEL and will use innovative separation technologies. Catchlight Energy, whose Bioconversion Lead Dwight Anderson serves on the Voiland School Advisory Board, is one of the consortium members. Learn more of this initiative at and of the DOE announcement at