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The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Zizwe Chase Wins William R. Wiley Award at Recent Graduate Exposition

Zizwe Chase at work
Zizwe Chase

Chemical engineering graduate student Zizwe Chase has won a William R. Wiley Research Award at the William R. Wiley Graduate Research Exposition. Chase’s advisor is Dr. Yong Wang. His presentation was entitled, “Composition and Structure of Supported Palladium Catalysts during Hydrogenation of Phenol in Water.” His research is part of the overall focus of aqueous phase lignocellulosic based biomass conversion to fuel.

View the list of all Wiley Award winners and photos of the Exposition

New Prestigious Graduate Fellowship Opportunities

(l to r) Dr. Alla Kostyukova works with graduate student, Mert Colpan
(l to r) Dr. Alla Kostyukova works with graduate student, Mert Colpan
The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering has become eligible for participation in Achievement Rewards for College Sciences (ARCS) Foundation fellowship program, a nationally acclaimed fellowship program.
ARCS Foundation, founded in 1958, aims to address the growing need for US scientists and engineers by offering doctoral fellowships to students pursuing science, engineering and medical research. By becoming eligible for this program, the Voiland School becomes more competitive in being able to recruit top graduate students.

“WSU Chemical Engineering program was selected in recognition of the high quality Ph.D. education conducted by the faculty of the Voiland School, and their ability to attract and educate the best students from around the nation,” said James Petersen, the director of the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

During the past five years, the Voiland School has seen dramatic growth in its program with increases in its number of graduate students and in research support. Focused research areas in the school include chemical and biological catalysis for clean energy, protein engineering, and engineering education.

The school has also seen an 18-point increase in the US News and World Report’s Best Engineering Schools ranking. Additionally, WSU’s School of Chemical Engineering recently received a top 10 ranking from Shaw Lesser of Sustainable World Capital. The list included MIT, UC Berkeley and at number 10, WSU.

Nancy Magnuson, the interim vice president of research and dean of the graduate school, attributes the program’s growth to a recent change in leadership and the generous donation from alumni Gene and Linda Voiland.

“As a result, sponsored research funding and PhD student numbers are dramatically rising and the chemical engineering program is gaining in prominence,” wrote Magnuson in a cover letter for the proposal submitted to the foundation.

Other WSU graduate programs in the College of Veterinary Medicine and CAHNRS are also eligible for Seattle Chapter, ARCS fellowships.
“We are pleased to be counted among WSU’s most highly recognized graduate programs,” Petersen said.

Adan Medina’s MIT Summer Research Program Expands Experience, Builds Confidence

Adan Medina with his MIT project poster
Adan Medina, chemical engineering student

When Adan Medina discovered he’d been selected for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Summer Research Program (MSRP), he was ecstatic.

“I was in the lab when the program director called to say I was accepted. Let’s just say you could hear my excitement throughout the halls,” said Medina, a chemical engineering student in his final year.

This summer, Medina and 38 other students from various STEM majors around the country took part in this highly competitive undergraduate opportunity. Its goal is to prepare participants for graduate school through a focus on research. Medina said the three main pillars of the program were preparing for graduate school applications, networking, and conducting research with MIT professors.

The students all worked in research laboratories related to their fields and received a weekly stipend. Medina worked in the well-known Wittrup Lab that specializes in protein engineering, specifically focusing on anti-cancer drugs.

In particular, Medina focused on a different method of creating antibody-like reagents, or substances that help to bring about chemical reactions, for research. The goal of the project is to equip laboratories with efficient, low-cost methods to make antibodies. At the end of the 9-week program, all of the students presented posters about their research.

“I had to start my experiments over 3 or 4 times, which was stressful since I wanted to have data to show at the poster session. Not a second was ever lost, though, because each time I started over I knew a little bit more about the experiment,” Medina said.

Working in the WSU labs of Dr. Su Ha and Dr. John Alderete helped Medina gain the experience he needed to be accepted by MSRP. While his area of interest is biofuels, Medina’s passion for the research process gave him the desire to work in different fields.

“Adan is one of the most excitable, enthusiastic, dedicated undergraduates that my lab has had the pleasure to work with,” said Alderete.

As a result of MSRP, Medina is even more confident in his desire to pursue research through graduate school. He is applying to chemical engineering programs mostly on the West Coast that have strong bio-based alternative energy programs.

“This summer was my best experience by far. I am now confident in my ability to do research and in the huge difference that research can make,” Medina said.

Read more about the project at WSU News

Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Kevin Gray Earns Fellowship in Japan

Kevin Gray working in the lab with Kaylin Pan
Kevin Gray working in the lab with Kaylin Pan

PULLMAN, Wash. – Chemical engineering PhD student Kevin Gray is headed to Japan in November to do a fellowship at a prestigious international school.

Gray will work under Dr. Fadel Samatey, a collaborator with Gray’s advisor Dr. Alla Kostyukova, at The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University for four months. Samatey will give him training in protein crystallography and X-ray Diffraction.

“I am extremely fortunate to be working with Professor Kostyukova. She has a wide breadth of research techniques, and it is because of her connections that I even applied for this fellowship,” he said.

Currently he is preparing the Tropomodulin-2 (Tmod2) protein samples that are part of his graduate research to take with him to Japan. Tmod2 is a protein expressed in brain tissue. Altered amounts of the protein appear after strokes, after methamphetamine exposure and in Down’s Syndrome.

In addition to learning the crystallization process, he hopes to crystallize his protein samples and then gather structural data using X-ray Diffraction.

“We are currently doing fundamental science to better understand the protein,” he said. “Once we better understand it, that information may be used later down the road to suggest targeting Tmod2 regulation which could alleviate symptoms in conditions such as Down’s Syndrome,” he said. Originally from North Carolina, Gray grew up in Redmond, Wash. He earned his undergraduate degree at The Georgia Institute of Technology.

“While I am excited to continue my research and learn new techniques, I’m also looking forward to being somewhere new and meeting new people,” he said.

Graduate Student Xiaohui Ju’s Biofuels Research Wins Poster Competition at PNNL

Xiaohui (Sophie) Ju
Xiaohui (Sophie) Ju

PULLMAN, Wash. – A WSU-Tri-Cities chemical engineering PhD student won third place in a student poster competition at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Xiaohui Ju’s research is related to biofuels. She and her advisor, Xiao Zhang, are working to understand the deconstruction of cellulose in biofuels in hopes that their findings will lead to more efficient methods of biofuel production.

Ju presented her poster, Mechanism of Nanocrystalline Cellulose Decrystallization during Enzymatic Hydrolis, at PNNL’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) annual user meeting. Her research is supported by a National Science Foundation award.

“It is a very good opportunity for a brand new student to get to work with professional scientists, and getting recognized for my work makes me feel I’m doing something important for renewable energy,” Ju said.

Opportunities such as developing and presenting that research are part of what brought Ju to WSU. Originally from China, she earned her bachelor’s there, and then came to WSU because of its prestigious chemical engineering program and involvement in biofuels.

“My advisor is very helpful in giving me instruction, and I appreciate the chance to come here where there are many opportunities for career development,” she said.

Ju hopes to finish her doctoral degree within the next couple of years, and then plans to stay in the area and continue to work in the development of biofuels. Ju sees it as a promising industry, and would like to help make it commercially viable. Zhang is confident in her ability to pursue her goals.

“She is a very intelligent and hardworking woman,” he said.

Engineering Education Assessment Team Win Best Paper at ASEE Conference

Authors of IDEALS paper
Denny Davis and co-authors: (front row) Jay McCormack, Steve Beyerlein, Denny Davis; (back row) Paul Leiffer, Patricia Brackin, Susannah Howe, Phillip Thompson, M. Javed Khan, Howard Davis; (not pictured) Michael Trevisan, Jennifer LeBeau, Rober Gerlick)

PULLMAN, Wash. – Denny Davis, emeritus professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, recently received a best paper award for his paper, Integrated Design Engineering Assessment and Learning System (IDEALS): Piloting Teamwork and Professional Skills Development Instructional Materials.

Davis presented the paper at the annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education that took place in San Antonio on June 10–13. The full paper is published in the conference proceedings and is available through the ASEE website (

In the paper, Davis and 11 other co-authors summarize 10 years of work in the development of research-based assessments and instructional materials for engineering design. Collaborators from across the country, representing several higher education institutions with diverse student populations, have developed and documented the effectiveness of their modules in capstone engineering design courses.

“With funding from the National Science Foundation, we have documented extraordinary professional skill development in our capstone design students using IDEALS modules. Students learn design and professional skills in an authentic professional environment, so they are ready to apply these skills in the professional world,” Davis said.

IDEALS modules give capstone design course instructors the materials they need to help students learn teamwork, professional responsibility, and professional development (self-directed learning) skills and to document the achievement of these skills. With the publication of the paper, instructors throughout the US and beyond are directed to the IDEALS website ( where modules and instructor guides are available. Davis hopes that the work leads to more purposeful instruction and more useful assessment of students’ professional skills in design classes.

Davis is a leading expert in engineering design education, and the project leader for the IDEALS team. He and colleague Howard Davis have used many of the materials they developed in capstone courses at WSU.

The other researchers co-authoring the paper include Michael Trevisan, Howard Davis and Jennifer LeBeau from WSU, Steven Beyerlein and Jay McCormack from University of Idaho, Paul Leiffer from LeTourneau University, Phillip Thompson from Seattle University, Susannah Howe from Smith College, Robert Gerlick from Pittsburg State University, Patricia Brackin from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and M. Javed Khan from Tuskegee University.

Read this article at WSU News

Nancy Ross Sutherland Named 2012 TAPPI Fellow

Nancy Ross Sutherland
Nancy Ross Sutherland

Nancy Ross Sutherland, MS Chemical Engineering, ‘84, was named a 2012 Fellow of TAPPI, the leading association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging, and converting industries. Fellow is an honorary title bestowed upon a small percentage of TAPPI’s membership and is given to individuals who have made extraordinary technical or service contributions to the industry and/or the association.

Sutherland is head of the Paper Test Lab, Forest Products Laboratory. She earned a B.S. in Wood and Fiber Utilization from Michigan Technological University, and a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Washington State University. She has worked for the U.S. Forest Service since joining the Forest Products Laboratory in 1989 as a Forest Product Technologist for the Composites Unit. She has held leadership positions in the TAPPI Process and Product Quality Division, is currently a Member at Large on the P&PQ Division Steering Committee and is active in the Paper and Board Division as well. She’s served on the Fun Run committee at PaperCon for the last seven years and is currently Planning Committee Chair. Nancy is a member of American Society of Testing Materials Committee D06 on Paper and Paper Products, currently serving as vice-chair, and is also active in Technical Committee (TC 6) of the International Standards Organization (ISO).