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

WSU Researchers Working to Insulate Fruit Trees with Cellulose Nanocrystals

Student spraying fruit trees with cellulose nanocrystals

Washington State University researchers are studying how to use cellulose nanocrystals to insulate sensitive trees and buds against the cold. So far, their experiments have been successful.

The team is led by horticulturist Matt Whiting and engineer Xiao Zhang. Their research was recently featured in Good Fruit Grower Magazine. Read the article >>

In charge and involved

WSU President Kirk Schulz with student, Sherry Voss

WSU President Kirk Schulz and Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Dean Mary Rezac lead the university and the college, but with their training as chemical engineers, they also provide valuable input and unique contributions to the Voiland School.

While they are busy administrators, Schulz and Rezac remain active faculty members who understand the demands of research and teaching, have taught many chemical engineering courses, and continue to interact with students, says Jim Petersen, school director.

Before becoming administrators, both Rezac and Schulz taught virtually every undergraduate and graduate class in the chemical engineering curriculum.

Schulz holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech and received several teaching awards as a professor before he began his career in administration. He is as fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has conducted research in catalysis, surface science, and materials science, which are some of the strength areas in the Voiland School.

Schulz has long ties to WSU’s chemical engineering program. As an ABET program evaluator for many years, he evaluated WSU’s program in 2001 — an evaluation that led directly to the refurbishment of the school’s unit operations laboratory. As a faculty member, his last National Science Foundation grant provided support for the American Society for Engineering Education’s chemical engineering summer school — an event held in Pullman in 2007 and attended by faculty from across the nation.

WSU Voiland College Dean, Mary Rezac visiting with students, 2018
Dean Rezac talking with Voiland School students

Rezac holds chemical engineering degrees from Kansas State University and the University of Texas at Austin. Before starting her academic career, she worked in the petroleum industry for a company that annually supports the Voiland School and hires WSU students.

As a professor, she has directed more than 30 graduate students, received research and teaching awards, and co-authored more than 250 publications and presentations. Her research interests include molecular-level fundamentals of separation processes and integration of these processes into industrial scale processes. The work has applications in the energy, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals industries.

In the Voiland School, the administrators participate as active faculty members. Schulz serves as academic advisor for five undergraduate students, meeting with them on a regular basis, and on the graduate advisory committee for a PhD student working on the synthesis of nanoparticles for clean energy.

He is never too shy to tell students about his own struggles and that he, in fact, failed his first undergraduate class in fluid mechanics.

“These stories really encourage the students,” said Petersen. “He really shows them that you can persevere to achieve success.”

Rezac occasionally fills in to teach classes and recently received a standing ovation from the students after a lecture.

“These opportunities are unique and meaningful for the students,” said Petersen. “These individuals are in their positions because they are impassioned, engaged faculty.”

Kristian Gobsch awarded NOAA Hollings Scholarship

Kristian Gubsch and Dr. Hongfei Lin working in the lab

Washington State University chemical engineering student Kristian Gubsch is the school’s first recipient of the prestigious Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The nationally competitive award pays $19,000 total for the Edgewood, Wash., student’s 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years, provides a 10-week paid summer internship at an NOAA facility, and funds travel to present at two scientific conferences.

Heading into his junior year, Gubsch plans to facilitate an introductory course for incoming Honors College students and work in Dr. Hongfei Lin’s carbon conversion and chemical engineering research lab.

Read entire article about Kristian’s scholarship and atmospheric research at WSU News

Improving chemotherapy treatments to reduce side effects

Afshin Khan and Kevin Gray working at the computer

Two WSU doctoral graduates partner to become entrepreneurs

When someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer, it can change your life perspective — and sometimes your life projectory. For Kevin Gray, a WSU doctoral graduate, the diagnosis drove him to a new passion and the ultimate creation of a biotechnology company to develop novel cancer treatments.

“I was in my second year in undergraduate school when my dad was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive kind of cancer,” says Kevin, co-founder and principal inventor of Chimeric Designs Inc. “It kind of flipped my world upside down and freaked me out.”

Kevin did what most do in this situation: he turned to the internet to research cancer treatment. A year later, he was in a class on cancer biology and technology where guest speakers visited from large universities across the nation. “It was like listening to a rock star every week,” Kevin recalled. It was then he decided to pursue a career researching cancer technology.

Kevin and his business partner, Afshin Kahn (left above), started Chimeric Designs Inc. as a spin-off of Kevin’s co-curricular research internship. The company is committed to researching more effective techniques in chemotherapy treatment to reduce post-treatment impacts on patients. Chimeric Designs, incorporated in May 2017, was recently awarded a Commercialization Gap Fund from the WSU Office of Commercialization to support the advancement of its products to the marketplace…

Read the entire story at the Washington State University Graduate School website

Experi-mint: Eucalyptus as alternative to dense jet fuel

Hongfei Lin with two of his students in the lab

Hongfei LinPULLMAN, Wash. – A research team led by Hongfei Lin, associate professor from Washington State University’s Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, has developed a novel process for synthesizing dense jet fuel from mint, pine, gumweed, eucalyptus or other plants.

The research is a significant step towards making high-energy density biofuels affordable in the aviation industry.

Jet fuel from numerous plants

The process, known as biphasic tandem catalytic process (biTCP), synthesizes cyclic hydrocarbon compounds for jet fuel from terpenoids, the natural organic chemical compounds found in many plants. Cyclic hydrocarbons are molecular compounds with structures that can store high levels of energy. The researchers were able to create a high yield of the cyclic hydrocarbon p-menthane from eucalyptus oil.

Collaborating with the University of Nevada-Reno, the researchers’ work was recently published in the journal Green Chemistry.

View full article at WSU News

View article at Biomass Magazine

View article at Green Car Congress

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PHS student experiments with methane conversion alongside WSU chemical engineers

Hongyeoul Park works with Jake Gray in Su Ha's lab

[Photo credit (above): Geoff Crimmons, Moscow-Pullman Daily News; Pullman High School junior Hongyeoul Park, above, mixes nickel nitrate under the supervision of Washington State University doctoral student Jake Gray. Gray was Park’s mentor during a summer internship through the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED.]

By Taylor Nadauld, Daily News staff writer | Published at the Daily News on September, 28 2017

Pullman High School junior Hongyeoul Park, right, works in Dr. Su Ha’s lab under the supervision of Washington State University doctoral student Jake Gray in Pullman.
Pullman High School junior Hongyeoul Park, right, mixes nickel nitrate under the supervision of Washington State University doctoral student Jake Gray in Pullman. [photo credit: Geoff Crimmons, Moscow-Pullman Daily News]
When 16-year-old Pullman High School student Hongyeoul Park began a summer research project with Washington State University chemists to investigate the efficient conversion of methane into fuel, he did so with just one uninspiring year of high school chemistry under his belt.

“Chemistry did not spark any more interest in chemical engineering,” Park said Tuesday, “but when I first heard about the research they were doing and how this research can somehow lead to making our environment a better place, I kind of felt intrigued.”

Park was chosen this past summer to participate in the American Chemical Society Project SEED summer research program, a program that gives economically disadvantaged high school juniors and seniors the chance to work on research projects in laboratories alongside experienced scientists and mentors…

View full article at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News

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