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The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Voiland School Students Receive Research Scholarships

Four students in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering will have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research, thanks to support from the DeVlieg Foundation and the Weyerhaeuser Company.

As part of the scholarship awards, the students will work with faculty mentors throughout the year and will then present their work at conferences and/or at WSU’s Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) in April. The students received support to conduct research in the area of alternative fuels and renewable energy.

Weyerhaeuser is a partner in the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and is supporting research related to biomass conversion to useable fuel. Using a variety of feedstocks from construction waste to forest residues, NARA is working to create a sustainable industry in aviation biofuels and co-products. The DeVlieg Foundation awards also support undergraduate research in renewable energy.

The award winners include the following:

DeVlieg Foundation:

Junior Zoey Henson will work with Professor Grant Norton, dean of the Honors College. Using a novel experimental method, she will assess the success of catalytic reactions within a solid oxide fuel cell. The researchers hope the new technique leads to more successful reactions, a better fuel cell, and, eventually, better clean energy alternatives.

Jake Gray, senior, is working with Professor Su Ha on methods for improving a catalytic reaction without increasing reactor temperatures. In particular, Gray will be looking at the effects of applying an electric field to a nickel catalyst during the reformation of methane, an important process which produces approximately 95 percent of the world’s hydrogen. In practical applications, this electrical field could be supplied using renewable energy sources. Because process heating and cooling are extremely energy-expensive, replacing this requirement with a cheaper, cleaner alternative will remove hurdles facing the sustainability of hydrogen fuel cells.


Junior Felix Nwanne will work with Professor Xiao Zhang at WSU Tri Cities. Nwanne is working with Zhang on research relating to biomass conversion to useable fuel and energy resources, including bio-energy and bio-products.

Gunnar Hoff, a senior, is working with Professor Su Ha to try new techniques to improve the power density of an enzymatic biofuel cell that uses glucose as a fuel source. Future energy supplies will depend on the design of green, sustainable, and efficient systems for the conversion of clean and cheap energy sources. Enzymatic biofuel cells represent one approach to clean energy production. Instead of expensive metal catalysts, biofuel cells can use renewable enzymes as the catalysts.

Courtney Herring Receives Top Poster Award at Aerosol Research Conference

Courtney Herring working in the lab
Courtney Herring working in the lab
One of the Voiland School’s graduate students received a top poster award at the recent American Association for Aerosol Research annual conference held last week in Portland, Oregon.

Courtney Herring, a graduate student in the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, is investigating the chemical composition of diesel and gasoline exhaust mixtures. Herring conducted a series of experiments at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico, running engines under a variety of conditions to see how the chemical composition of the exhaust changed. Led by Timothy VanReken, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the researchers are studying the link between health concerns and specific chemicals in the exhaust. In particular, the researchers are measuring what engine conditions might contribute to or worsen the formation of cancer-causing compounds. Researchers at WSU are involved in the project because of their ability to accurately measure gas and the particle phase of the exhaust. The work is part of a large project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

View full article at WSU News ↗

Distinguished Professor Becomes AIChE Fellow

Yong Wang
Yong Wang

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University Voiland Distinguished Professor Yong Wang was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in May, just a couple months after being named a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

Wang’s major advisor Bill Thomson nominated him for the honor.

“When working with Yong I mostly brought him the resources he needed, and then just tried to stay out of the way. He surpassed me quickly and now is probably one of the most notable catalyst researchers in the world,” Thomson said.

Wang received his master’s and doctoral degrees in Chemical Engineering from WSU’s Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. His research focuses mainly on the development of novel catalytic materials and reaction engineering for the conversion of fossil and biomass feedstocks to fuels and chemicals.

Wang holds a joint appointment with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) as well, where he is a Laboratory Fellow and Associate Director of PNNL’s Institute for Integrated Catalysis. He was named the PNNL Inventor of the Year twice. His research on energy and renewable fuels is known around the world and has led him to publish 165 peer-reviewed articles, hold 86 issued U.S. patents, and earn several awards, including three prestigious R&D 100 awards. The Chinese Institute of Engineers named him the 2006 Asian American Engineer of the Year and he is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

The AIChE is a professional society with more than 45,000 members from more than 90 countries. According to the AIChE website, members are eligible to become fellows when they have significant chemical engineering practice (generally 25 years), and have made distinctive professional accomplishments and contributions. Wang will be presented with his honor at the upcoming AIChE meeting in November 2013 in San Francisco, California.

Find this news release at WSU News online at

WSU Scholars Get National Boren Scholarship, Alternate Designation for 2013–14

Monica Bomber
Monica Bomber

PULLMAN, Wash.— Chinese major John Stark is Washington State University’s newest Boren Scholar to receive federal funding to study a foreign language abroad, and chemical engineering student Monica Bomber has been named a Boren alternate.

With his Boren funding, Stark, a senior, will further his mastery of Mandarin to fulfill his passion for language and prepare him “to be valuable to the U.S. in areas of defense and diplomacy.” Bomber, a sophomore, would use Boren support to study Swahili in class and throughout an internship, intent on learning to design cost-effective water purification plants in East Africa. Both are members of the Honors College at WSU.

Boren Scholarships provide up to $20,000 to American undergraduate college students to study less-commonly-taught languages in about 90 world regions critical to U.S. interests but underrepresented in study abroad. These include Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Among the nearly 65 preferred languages are Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Swahili. For 2013–14, 161 of 947 undergraduates applying for Boren Scholarships received the award; in exchange for the funding, recipients agree to work in the federal government for at least one year.

Boren programs are sponsored by the National Security Education Program and named for David L. Boren, principal author of federal legislation that created the program in 1991. A former Democratic governor and state senator from Oklahoma, he was the longest serving chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence; currently he is president of the University of Oklahoma and co-chair of the nonpartisan U.S. President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

Stark began his study of Mandarin/Chinese at WSU; Boren support will take him to the International Chinese Language Program at National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan. A graduate of Newport High School in Newport, Wash., he plans to work in the intelligence community.

In her Boren application, Bomber expressed a desire to study Swahili (aka KiSwahili) at the Knowledge Exchange Institute at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. A graduate of Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, she will depart for the Tanzania program in late May, although she may not have a Boren Scholarship or funding in time. The eight-week summer program will be spent half in language and culture classes, and half at an internship with an organization involved in water resources. The experience aligns with her future academic plans in engineering and the Honors College back at WSU.

Creating and protecting sustainable water systems in developing countries is a goal of the U.S. Department of State, says Bomber, who plans to work one day in its Foreign Service sector as an economics officer.

For more information on the Boren and other prestigious scholarships, visit the WSU Distinguished Scholarships website at

CONTACT: Sarah Ann Hones, Distinguished Scholarships Director, University College at WSU, 509-335-8239,

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Communications Director, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679,

Chemically Powered Car Wins First in Region

Chemically Powered Car Wins
The winning team, from left: Ryan Daut, Maximilian Worhatch, Ian Van Houten, Les Okonek, a member of the WSU College of Engineering and Architecture executive leadership board, Nicholas Laymon and Devin Ergler.

PULLMAN, Wash. – Chemical engineering students from Washington State University won first place at the regional ChemE Car competition this month in Bozeman, Mont., and will compete at nationals in San Francisco in November.

The idea for the contest was developed by a WSU student group in 2000. The competition is sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

The students, all juniors, are: Ian Van Houten, Bellingham, Wash.; Ryan Daut, Mount Vernon, Wash.; Max Worhatch, Puyallup, Wash.; Devin Ergler, Cle Elum, Wash.; and Nick Laymon, Willamina, Ore.

Chemical calibrations

Competition rules stipulate that the car must run and stop on its own using chemical reactions. The teams learn the distance the car must go and the weight of the load it will carry just an hour before the competition and then have to quickly determine the proper calibration for their car.

Chemically Powered Car Team
(l to r): Maximillian Worhatch, Nicholas Laymon, Devin Ergler, Ian Van Houten, and Ryan Daut with their “Frankencoug”


This year’s WSU team began working together in January to resurrect the car they call “Frankencoug,” since it was made with some of the parts left behind by the last WSU team that competed two years ago.

Consisting of premade parts, such as a large Tupperware container and bright yellow plastic wheels, the team’s car was lighter than the other entries.

“We all found out the day of the competition that the cars had to run on carpet rather than linoleum, and the heavier cars were really affected by that,” Ergler said.

Hydrogen fuel cell

Inside the light framework sits a hydrogen fuel cell that powers the car. A balloon at one end stores the released hydrogen, and a beaker containing a magnesium strip sits on top of the car and acts as the stopping mechanism. When acid is poured into the beaker, the magnesium strip dissolves; once it is dissolved, the car stops.

“It was a great feeling to win because during the week leading up to the competition we were putting in 8-10 hour days to work out some problems,” Worhatch said.

BP donation

A $1,000 donation from BP and access to the Unit Ops lab at WSU helped the team develop the entry. Team advisor and professor Richard Zollars and professors Su Ha and David Thiessen supported the team by answering questions and offering suggestions.

As the students prepare for the national competition, they hope to improve the car’s precision. They also hope to get more underclassmen involved next year so WSU students are regularly entering the competition.

Funds needed for competition

“It is a good way to be involved with chemical engineering outside of the classroom, and it gives us a chance to apply what we’re learning to a real project,” said Daut.

The students are trying to raise money to attend the national competition. For more information on how you can give your support, please contact Don Shearer at 509-335-4733 or

View the article at WSU Today ↗”

Kang Pan Receives Highest Honors at the SURCA Awards

Dr. Alla Kostyukova and bioengineering major, Kang Pan, working in the lab
Dr. Alla Kostyukova and bioengineering major, Kang Pan, working in the lab

PULLMAN, Wash. – Thirty-four Washington State University students landed 30 awards following a day of competition at the March 29 Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA). Among those receiving the highest honors was Kang Pan, a senior in bioengineering from Pasco, WA. Pan’s advisor is Dr. Alla Kostyukova.

Nearly 150 students shared the results of their research, scholarship and creative activities via 10 oral and 117 poster presentations in eight categories. Participants in the second annual university-wide SURCA represented dozens of majors and specializations across six of WSU’s nine degree-granting colleges.

For the first time, online students joined the event. Read more about that here

Senior Kang Pan with her advisor, Dr. Alla Kostyukova
Senior Kang Pan with her advisor, Dr. Alla Kostyukova

“All of the presentations were excellent this year, and the breadth of research the students are conducting is vast, so selecting the best of the best to receive awards was not an easy task,” said Shelley Pressley, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, a program in the University College at WSU and host of SURCA.

View the full article and a complete list of winners at WSU Today

Dr. Yong Wang named Royal Society of Chemistry Fellow

Yong Wang
Yong Wang

Yong Wang, Voiland Distinguished Professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, has been named a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

According to the RSC website, those who are named fellows are recognized for making outstanding contributions in the advancement or application of chemical science or to the chemical science profession. The Royal Society of Chemistry is the largest chemical sciences organization in Europe, with more than 47,000 members.

With WSU since 2009, Wang, who holds a joint position at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, is an internationally known researcher in energy and renewable fuels whose work has had a significant impact on improving energy efficiency in the chemical and fuels industries.

A WSU alumnus (MS, ‘92, PhD. ‘93, Chem E.), Wang’s work spans fundamental to applied research in catalysis and reaction engineering to improve the conversion of biomass and hydrocarbons to fuels and chemicals. Improving the efficiency of catalysts, which are used in many industries to chemically transform and create products and fuel, is important to increasing supplies, reducing costs and improving environmental impacts of petroleum-based and alternative fuels.

Wang is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Chemical Society (ACS). The Chinese Institute of Engineers named him the 2006 Asian American Engineer of the Year. He is the recipient of three prestigious R&D 100 awards (1997, 1999 and 2008), which annually recognize the 100 most significant and innovative new technologies that have been introduced in the marketplace. He is also a recipient of the Presidential Green Chemistry Award and twice was named Pacific Northwest National Laboratories Inventor of the Year.

He has more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, more than 100 invited presentations, more than 85 issued US patents, and six edited books and topic journals issued on novel materials and reaction engineering for fossil and biomass conversions.

View article at WSU News