2012 News Archive

Hestekin Selected for Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium

Christa Hestekin, assistant professor of chemical engineering, is among two University of Arkansas professors selected to attend the National Academy of Engineering's fourth Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium to be held in Irvine, Calif., in October. Norman Dennis, University Professor of civil engineering and interim associate dean of the College of Engineering, has also been selected to attend the symposium.

Seventy-two engineering educators from across the nation have been invited to this year's symposium, where they will share ideas and learn about research and best practices in engineering education. The focus of this year’s forum will be innovations in the context, curriculum, and delivery of engineering education.

"The Frontiers of Engineering Education program creates a unique venue for engineering faculty members to share and explore interesting and effective innovations in teaching and learning,” said NAE President Charles M. Vest. “We want FOEE to become a major force in identifying, recognizing, and promulgating advances and innovations in order to build a strong intellectual infrastructure and commitment to 21st-century engineering education.”

For more information on the Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium, click here.
Read the original Newswire release here.

Release date: 9/26/2012

Boston Mountain Biotech, LLC, Develops Method to Simplify Production of Pharmaceutical-use Proteins

Researchers at the University of Arkansas have developed a method to simplify the pharmaceutical production of proteins used in drugs that treat a variety of diseases and health conditions, including diabetes, cancer, arthritis and macular degeneration.

With assistance from the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program, Ellen Brune, primary researcher and inventor of the technology, has started a company to shorten development time so that new drugs can get to patients faster. Current protein pharmaceutical development is a complicated, time-consuming and expensive process because manufacturers must separate and extract contaminant proteins.

Brune, a doctoral student in chemical engineering, created a series of custom strains of the bacteria Escherichia coli that express minimized sets of contaminants or “nuisance” proteins. Brune then sought assistance to commercialize the technology. In an entrepreneurship class taught by Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship and management professor in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Brune created Boston Mountain Biotech LLC, a research and biotechnology firm that will save significant time by preparing the proteins for the manufacturing process.

“Millions of people across the globe are suffering from treatable diseases because manufacturers cannot afford to make the drugs they need,” Brune said. “These companies have to spend too much time and money getting rid of stuff that doesn’t work to get to the stuff that does. Our work addresses this problem. Our cell lines reduce the garbage, so to speak, before the manufacturing process begins.”

Current protein pharmaceutical manufacturing involves separating or cleaning up “background” contamination to reach the target protein – a long and expensive process. Background contamination is undesirable and unnecessary proteins that are prohibited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the final drug product. The FDA requires that the final product be 99 percent pure.

Drug companies spend roughly $8 billion a year trying to clean up these contaminants during production. Brune compares the process to making orange juice by blending the peel and seeds along with the meat of an orange. Once the juice is made, producers would then have to filter out the chunks of seeds and peel.

In the laboratory, Brune worked under the direction of chemical engineering professor Bob Beitle, one of several researchers who have been investigating this problem for more than a decade. Brune designed custom strains of “Lotus” E. coli. Lotus refers to a suite of cell lines optimized to work with specific separation techniques and characteristics. She accomplished this through bio-separation and genetic manipulation, specifically by removing the sections of DNA that code for the contaminant regions. Her work simplifies the purification process on the front end of protein pharmaceutical production, so that the cell line is specifically developed for manufacturing. Current cell lines used for protein production look nothing like what has to be achieved for large-scale manufacturing, Brune said.

Brune serves as chief scientific officer at Boston Mountain Biotech. In addition to the assistance from Reeves and the entrepreneurship program, the company has received significant support from the NSF I-Corps Program, including $50,000 in marketing and operational funding and participation in an innovative, start-up training program that provided a foundation for connecting with potential investors. Boston Mountain Biotech has also won a total of $50,000 from business plan competitions, mostly due to Brune’s persuasive presentation skills. The company is seeking additional investors and is currently working with two manufacturers on pilot testing.

Brune has produced two videos about the company, an informational video for the I-Corps grant and a second video intended for investors.

NSF I-Corps is a set of activities and programs that prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory. The primary goal of the program is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported previously by NSF-funded research.

Since 2006, the Walton College entrepreneurship program, which Reeves directs, has produced six companies that employ more than 100 people, most of whom work and live in Arkansas. The college offers a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship and a certificate in the same for graduate students, such as Brune, in other colleges and schools. Reeves has served as director of the program since its inception in 2006 and has mentored business-plan teams in competitions since 2002. Brune won first place in the graduate competition of this year’s Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup, Arkansas’ largest business plan competition.

Read original Newswire here.

Release date: 8/28/2012

Beitle Receives Faculty Gold Medal

Professor Bob Beitle was among seven University of Arkansas faculty to be presented with Faculty Gold Awards from the office of nationally competetitive awards April 30, during its annual reception at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House. This marks the third year in a row that a member of the chemical engineering faculty has been been so recognized, as well as a Department Gold Medal in 2009.

Each year the office of nationally competitive awards selects six to seven faculty mentors for special recognition for their dedicated service to students. Suzanne McCray, director of the office and emcee of the event, presented Faculty Gold Medal Awards to:

  • Curt Rom, Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences
  • Lanier Nalley, Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences
  • Freddie Bowles, College of Education and Health Professions
  • Bob Beitle, College of Engineering
  • David Zaharoff, College of Engineering
  • Hope Christiansen, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
  • Molly Rapert, Sam M. Walton College of Business

The Departmental Gold Medal went to the department of marketing in the Walton College. Previous recipients include international relations, biological sciences, chemical engineering, history, political science, economics, world languages and physics.

Read full Newswire article here.

Release date: 5/9/2012

King Chairs International Symposium on Supercritical Fluids

Professor Jerry King organized and served as chair of the 10th International Symposium on Supercritical Fluids, held May 13-16 in San Francisco. The global conference highlights the discover, development, and production aspects that utilizes the unique capabilities of supercritical fluid solvents. Chemical engineering students, Rohit Dhamdere, Yu Wu Lu and Jenny Phomakay, presented at the conference, as did recent graduate Keerthi Srinivas.

The symposium has brought international researchers, practitioners and industrialists who contribute cutting-edge presentations on emerging applications and processes in the area of critical fluid technology for over 30 years.

The three-day symposium featured parallel sessions of plenary, keynote, and presentations and contributed talks as well as poster sessions. In addition, an exhibition accompanied the scientific program featuring products and processes offered by 24 international companies. Attendees came from 51 countries around the globe and made 437 presentations.

King facilitated the participation of four current and former chemical engineering students: Keerthi Srinivas, a postdoctoral engineer; graduate students Rohit Dhamdere and Yu Wu Lu; and recent graduate Jenny Phomakay.

They were also among the 428 registrants, and each of the chemical engineering students assisted in the presentation of their research in six papers at the symposium, which featured 15 topical areas of research. The students interacted with many of the attendees as well assisting in helping run the 36 sessions.

Details of the conference can be reviewed at www.issf2012, including the titles of all of the oral and poster presentations. Starting from a zero balance, King facilitated over $110,000 in sponsorship support, which included the National Science Foundation, the Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Section of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Supercritical Fluids, and the International Society for the Advancement of Supercritical Fluids. The total fiscal yield from the symposium was $493,800, a portion of which was devoted to student funding to attend the conference.

Release date: 6/8/2012

Engineering Graduate Programs Gain in Rankings

In the latest edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools, three University of Arkansas engineering departments saw significant increases in their rankings, including civil, chemical and industrial.

The industrial engineering graduate program, which was ranked 25th last year, has moved to 19th place. This is the first time the industrial engineering program has been ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked 56 industrial engineering programs this year.

“I am so pleased to see our program continue to rise in the rankings,” said Kim Needy, head of the department of industrial engineering. “This recognition is a testament to the hard work and talents of our faculty, staff, students and alumni. ... This recognition is especially gratifying as these rankings are based on the perception of our program by industrial engineering department heads from across the country.”

The civil engineering graduate program also rose in the rankings, from 95th place to 81st place, and the chemical engineering graduate program jumped up 16 places, from 107 to 91.

Release date: 5/17/2012

Three ChemE Students Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Alexander Lopez, Allison McAtee, and Lizbeth Rostro are among four University of Arkansas graduates and two undergraduates awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The foundation recognizes promising young mathematicians, scientists and engineers who are committed to pursuing lifelong careers marked by significant contributions to research, teaching and industrial applications in science, mathematics and engineering. Two current University of Arkansas students and two alumni received honorable mentions.

Since 2000, more than 50 University students have claimed these fellowships.

Among the 10 students recognized by the National Science Foundation, seven are from the College of Engineering, two from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and one from the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. Eight of the students are members of the Honors College.

"It has been another great year for University of Arkansas students," said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. "Having six NSF Graduate Fellowships and four honorable mentions speaks well of the preparation these students are receiving on our campus. Across the colleges, these students have engaged actively in scientific research with energetic support from faculty. Our students and their mentors are as talented as any in the country as this recognition makes clear.”

The awards carry a stipend for each fellow of $30,000 each year and are renewable for three years.

In addition to the funds for stipend payments, the National Science Foundation provides the fellowship institution a cost-of-education allowance of $10,500 per year on behalf of each fellow. Each fellow also receives a $1,000 one-time international travel allowance. Fellows and those who receive honorable mention are also given access to the supercomputer TeraGrid for their research.

“The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is a very prestigious award for students preparing for careers in math, science, social science or engineering,” said Ashok Saxena, dean of the College of Engineering. “Because so many of our faculty members serve on NSF selection panels, we are able to provide such strong support for students applying for these awards. The advice the faculty can give is invaluable, and this is just one piece. Undergraduate research is very much part of the University of Arkansas culture, paving the way for success for students who want to compete for awards like this one, that requires students to have previous research experience.”

To read the original Newswire article and view the complete list of 2012 recipients, click here.

Release date: 5/7/2012

Two ChemE Professors Named AIChE Fellows

Professors Roy Penney and Tom Spicer have been named fellows by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The designation of fellow by AIChE recognizes significant accomplishment in engineering.

Penney recently received the Award for Excellence and Sustained Contributions to Mixing Research and Practice from the North American Mixing Forum, an affiliate of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He has been a member of the AIChE student contest problem subcommittee, which develops and grades problems for undergraduate contests, and he is the author of numerous AIChE Contest Problems including the 2012 problem, “The Production of non-Alcoholic Beer from Alcoholic Beer by use of Membranes." Penney was chair of the Contest Problem subcommittee from 1995 to 2003, and he was chair of programming for the North American Mixing Forum from 1989 to 1995.

One of Penney’s most important achievements in industrial mixing research and development was leading the engineering effort at the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co. and the German company Henkel Co. to design a chemical reactor system to mix and react dextrose, a sugar made from corn, with fatty alcohol from palm oil to produce alkyl polyglycoside.

Spicer is the Martin Leadership Chair and has served as Head of the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Arkansas since 2001. In addition to administrative duties, he teaches courses on chemical process safety, process control, and mathematical model development. He is a longtime member of the AIChE Safety and Chemical Engineering Education (SAChE) Committee where he has led the effort to distribute SAChE materials over the Web.

Spicer’s primary research interests include the assessment of hazards from airborne contaminants (particularly those that are denser than air) as well as hazards from fire and explosion phenomena. He has developed and verified mathematical and wind tunnel models of the atmospheric dispersion of hazardous materials. His work has been used by the U.S. Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for hazard assessment purposes.

"Since only two percent of the current AIChE membership are Fellows, I think it is very unusual to have two faculty members from the same department named as Fellows at the same time,” said Spicer. “I am proud to share this honor with Roy, and I look forward to other deserving faculty in our department being so recognized by the Institution in the future.”

Release date: 5/1/2012

Ulrich Receives 2012 Collis R. Geren Award

Chemical engineering professor Rick Ulrich was awarded the 2012 Collis R. Geren University Faculty Award for excellence in graduate education at the second annual Graduate School cookout on Tuesday, April 24.

The Graduate School and International Education hosted the event in appreciation of the efforts of university partners in graduate education throughout the year.

Dean Todd G. Shields presented the awards, initiated in honor of Collis R. Geren, who retired as dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for research in 2010. In addition to Ulrich's award, Joda Parent of the crop, soil and environmental sciences program received the University Staff Award, and Susan Byram, assistant director of graduate and international admissions, received the Graduate School Staff Award.

In recognizing this year’s awardees, Shields noted their unceasing work on behalf of graduate students, and expressed the appreciation of all the Graduate School staff for the awardees’ commitment to graduate education. About 200 faculty, staff and graduate students enjoyed the cookout fare.

Release date: 4/25/2012

Brune Wins Multiple Awards at Business Plan Competitions

A University of Arkansas team led by Ellen Brune, a ChemE doctoral student, won first place in the graduate competition at the 2012 Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup for Arkansas for her business venture, Boston Mountain Biotech. The award carries a $25,000 prize.

Brune recently won first place in the Graduate Business Plan Competition at the 24th Annual Nebraska Innovation Competition on March 13. The award carries a $7,000 stipend for use in research and development towards her business venture. That win qualifies her to compete in Venture Labs Investment Competition in May at the University of Texas at Austin, where teams compete for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. Investors regularly attend these competitions, getting a sneak-peak at rising entrepreneurs and new ventures, making the Venture Labs Investment Competition the Super Bowl of business plan competitions.

Brune said her business plan is one that can help “manufacture protein drugs faster and more cost effectively to that they can get into the hands of patients who need them.” The other member of her team is her father, Ricky Draehn.

“Qualifying for VLIC is simultaneously awesome and terrifying,” Brune said. “We will be going up against the best of the best, two of which are my fellow Arkansas teams. I just hope one of our teams wins. It would be a good show for the State of Arkansas.”

In addition to her Nebraska win, Brune’s venture took home second place and $10,000 at the 2012 New Venture Championship hosted by the University of Oregon on April 7, as well as placed asa runner-up for the Trade Show competition, which included a $500 award.

Read the full Newswire release here.

Release date: 4/10/2012

Potts Awarded Ford Foundation Fellowship

Thomas Potts, a chemical engineering doctoral student, has been selected as an awardee in the Ford Foundation Fellowship 2012 dissertation competition. This fellowship is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and administered by the National Research Council of the National Academies.

Selection for this prestigious award reflects scholarly competence as well as the promise for future achievement as a scholar, researcher, and teacher in an institution of higher education. The dissertation fellowships provide one year of support in the amount of $21,000 for individuals working to complete a dissertation leading to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) degree.

Release date: 4/10/2012

Chemical Engineering Students Design Award-Winning Microhydro Power Generator

Under the mentorship of Prof. Roy Penney, two chemical engineering studentdesign teams competed at the 2012 WERC Environmental Design Contest at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces on April 1-4. Roberto Arraya, Aaron Hughes, Travis Rose, and Nathan McAlister won first place and $2,500 for Task 6 - Microhydro Power Generation, for their design which used a turbine to produce electric power from a waster water stream. Teams competing in this task were charged with developing a pilot system that determines whether industrial wastewater can be used to create hydroelectric power. The pilot system was required to create a minimum of 10kW but also create a positive return on investment within a five-year period. The University of Arkansas team was able to produce 40kW of electrical power usinga 3.5 million gallon/day and 120-feet head wastewater stream from Intel's Rio Ranch, New Mexico plant.

Elizabeth Fullerton, Andrew Gibson, Carianne Reed, Tony Smith and Anne Ziegler competed against nine other teams in Task 5 - Green RO Pretreatment, which required teams to develop and demonstrate an alternative to disposable filters or an improved disposable filter design that can last at least four months filtering somewhat turbid feed water. To increase the life of reverse osmosis (RO) membranes, processes from each team should ideally address particle size down to 0.1 microns to account for suspended solids that cannot pass through current cartridge filters, and thus foul RO membranes. Their students' design improved the microfiltration system used by the U.S. Navy to improve the pre-filtering process of ocean water to feed reverse osmosis systems on Navy ships.

WERC is a consortium of agencies, companies and academic partners that try to address environmental education and technology development needs. The consortium is based at New Mexico State University. WERC conducts an annual contest among student teams that design solutions for environmental problems.

Release date: 4/10/2012

Myers Receives Alpha Chi Sigma Kuebler Award for 2012

Col. William Myers has been selected to receive the Alpha Chi Sigma John R. Kuebler Award for 2012. This is the highest award Alpha Chi Sigma bestows on its members and is presented for outstanding service to the Fraternity and to the chemical sciences profession. The award is presented biennially at the fraternity conclave which, this year, will be at the University of Iowa in late July. Prior Kuebler awardees include Nobel Laureate Glen Seaborg and J. Haworth Jonte (University of Arkansas PhD in chemistry, 1956). Alpha Chi Sigma is a national, professional chemistry fraternity founded in 1902 at the University of Wisconsin. The University of Arkansas’ Alpha Sigma Chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma was chartered in 1928.

Myers was commissioned as 2nd lieutenant in the Air Force at the same time he completed his undergraduate degree. He was initiated by Alpha Sigma in 1954 while an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Following his summer employment with Monsanto Chemical, Myers returned to the University of Arkansas for his M.S.ChE. After a brief stint with DuPont Co., Myers was called to active duty in the Air Force, where he was subsequently assigned to the Atomic Energy Detection Agency, which was charged with locating and characterizing nuclear explosions around the world. Myers remained in the nuclear weapons community with assignments both in- and outside the Air Force until his retirement in 1984. He began his second career with the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering, acting as assistant department head and teaching Corrosion Control before retiring in 2009. Myers served as the Alpha Sigma Chapter Faculty Advisor from 1985-2000, Grand Master Alchemist from 2000-2002, and has served as Alumni Secretary ever since.

Release date: 4/10/2012

Chemical Engineering Alumnus Receives Novus President's Award

Chemical Engineering alumnus Joe Sledge, a process improvement engineer at Novus International, Inc., has received one of the company’s prestigious annual President’s Awards for fiscal year 2011. Recipients are selected based on significant contributions to the organization. Sledge, who received his BSChE in 1998, was instrumental in the successful startup of Novus’ Mintrex facility in Little Rock, Ark., and improved the Mintrex Zn process by eliminating the need for on-purpose water addition. Sledge’s design afforded Novus $50M in annual sales of the minerals business, while keeping project costs consistently under budget.

Novus International, Inc., an industry leader in animal nutrition and health, is headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., and serves customers in more than 90 countries around the world. can be found at More information about the company.

Release date: 3/30/2012

Chemical Engineering Students Awarded NSG Fellowships

Three current and former chemical engineering students, Alex Lopez, Ali McAtee and Lizbeth Rostro, have been awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships for the 2012-2013 academic year. Lopez is a first-year doctoral student in Dr. Jamie Hestekin’s research group and received his BSChE here in 2011. McAtee, who is also in Hestekin’s group, will begin graduate studies at Vanderbilt University after receiving her BSChE in May. Rostro, also a 2011 graduate, is currently working toward her PhD at Purdue University. In addition, recent graduate Danielle Frechette received an Honorable Mention for her research at State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The University of Arkansas has a total of six students who have received 2012 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and four who have received an Honorable Mention.Each student awarded a fellowship was selected based his or her outstanding abilities and accomplishments, as well as the potential to contribute toward U.S. science and engineering enterprise, and receives a $30,000 stipend extendable for up to three years over a five-year period.

The full list of 2012 University of Arkansas Fellows and Honorable Mentions is as follows:

  • Long, Troy CampbellIndustrial Engineering and Operations Research
  • Lopez, Alexander Miguel Engineering - Chemical Engineering
  • McAtee, Allison Grace Chemical Engineering
  • Rembert, Thomas Ryland Engineering - Electrical and Electronic
  • Ridenour, John Byron Life Sciences - Genetics
  • Rostro, Lizbeth Chemical Engineering

Honorable mentions

  • Frechette, Danielle Engineering - Biomedical
  • Race, Morgan Lindsey Engineering - Civil Engineering
  • Sherman, Janelle Renee Geosciences - Hydrology
  • Wilson, Derrek Joseph Physics and Astronomy

Release date: 3/30/2012

King Named American Oil Chemists' Society Fellow

Professor Jerry King has been named a fellow by the American Oil Chemists' Society for his contributions as an international authority on critical fluid extraction technology and its applications to agricultural products, including oils and lipids.

AOCS noted King’s accomplishments and contributions to academic research in the field of sub- and super-critical critical fluids technology. In addition, AOCS stated “separation and analytical methods developed by Dr. King and his research teams using supercritical extraction and chromatography for analysis and production of lipids are now standard adopted methods.”

King has been actively involved in AOCS for over three decades, serving in numerous roles, including as technical session organizer, associate editor of Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, INFORM advisory board member, as well as holding leadership positions in the AOCS Analytical Sub-division. King and co-editor Gary List have contributed to two AOCS Press books, Supercritical Fluid Technology in Oil and Lipid Chemistry and Hydrogenation of Fats and Oils – Theory and Practice. He has also lectured in several society-sponsored short courses with a focus on natural products extraction, nutraceuticals processing, and biorenewable energy production. King received the AOCS Harvey W. Wiley Award in 1997, the Keene P. Dimick Award in 2000, and the Herbert Dutton Award in 2003. In addition, 45 of his 254 publications have been published in AOCS journals and books.

The American Oil Chemists’ Society is a global scientific society for those involved in fields related to fats, oils, surfactants and related materials. Founded in 1909, the society has over 4,500 members in 90 countries worldwide. King will be formally inducted as a Fellow at the 103rd AOCS Annual National Meeting on April 30 in Long Beach, Calif.

Release date: 3/16/2012

Roper and Colleagues Discover New Method of Making Nanoparticles

Chemical engineering associate professor Keith Roper and his colleagues at the University of Utah have discovered a new method of making nanoparticles and nanofilms to be used in developing better electronic devices, biosensors and certain types of high-powered and highly specific microscopes used for scientific research.

Nanoparticles – far too small for the human eye to detect – make up the building blocks of the latest processing hardware. The researchers’ nanoparticles, made of gold and deposited onto silicon substrates by a unique chemical process, are nontoxic and inexpensive to make and have superior dimensions, densities and distribution when compared to other nanoparticles and conventional methods of producing nanoparticles. The unique deposition technique has the further advantage of being able to rapidly coat fragile, three-dimensional and internal surfaces at the temperature and pressure of its surroundings without requiring conductive substrates or expensive, sophisticated equipment.

This unique approach improves upon a method that involves depositing atoms from a solution onto a substrate with a tin-sensitized surface. The researchers use a novel continuous-deposition process and then heat these deposited atoms to transform “islands” of nanoparticle material into desired forms. Ultrathin films prepared by this new approach are smoother than conventional “sputtered” or evaporated gold films and may exhibit better optical features, such as reduced surface-roughness scattering. These features are desirable in devices such as photovoltaic cells in which narrow metal layers significantly affect local electromagnetic fields. Smoother thin films could also improve the limits of detection, sensitivity, and photocurrent, respectively, in such applications.

The researchers were awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,097,295 on Jan. 17 for the development.

>Read the full Newswire release .

Release date: 3/6/2012

Chemical Engineering Graduate Students Honored at University Poster Competition

Three chemical engineering students received awards at the 2012 University of Arkansas Graduate Education Week Poster session held Feb. 23 at the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House. Aaron Russell received first place and Rohit Dhamdere second place for Chemical Engineering, while Melissa Hebert received second place for Chemistry. Each award winner received a plaque had their pictures taken with Gov. Mike Beebe, Chancellor Gearhart and Provost Gabor.

A total of 11 engineering students were honored at the event. Chemical Engineering had as many award winners as any other University department this year and was tied with Industrial Engineering for having three award winners. Other graduate presenters for Chemical Engineering included: Phillip Blake, Mohammadmadhi Malmali, Elizabeth Pryor, Dhaval Shah, James Turner and Gyoung gug Jang.

Fellow graduate student Tom Potts and Associate Professor Jamie Hestekin served as volunteer judges for the event, which featured a number of high quality posters throughout the University. A special thanks to the following advisors for their support and mentoring: Christa Hestekin, Jamie Hestekin, Jerry King, Keith Roper, Shannon Servoss and Ranil Wickramasinghe.

Full list of winners

Release date: 2/29/2012

George Fordyce Awarded Employee of the Quarter

George Fordyce, master scientific research technologist in the chemical engineering department, was among five University of Arkansas employees recognized Thursday by the Staff Senate for going above and beyond their normal job duties. The award is given each quarter, and each winner is placed in the pool of candidates considered for the Employee of the Year award. Read the full Newswire.

Release date: 2/9/2012

Penney Recognized by AIChE

“Mixing is getting to be a lost art,” explained Roy Penney, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Arkansas. While the blending of fluids is still critical to the chemical industry, most current academic research focuses on topics like nanoscience, biological science and biomedical science.

Penney still teaches students and practicing engineers this important skill in his AIChE industrial fluid mixing course, and the North American Mixing Forum, an affiliate of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, recently recognized his contribution to the mixing field with the Award for Excellence and Sustained Contributions to Mixing Research and Practice.

One of Penney’s most important achievements in industrial mixing research and development was leading the engineering effort at the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co. and the German company Henkel Co. to design a chemical reactor system to mix and react dextrose, a sugar made from corn, with fatty alcohol from palm oil to produce alkyl polyglocoside. This chemical, which is made from natural, renewable resources, is an important ingredient in personal care products like hand soap and shampoo.

Reacting the two ingredients that make up alkyl polyglocoside requires a strong acid catalyst, and when the reaction is complete, the catalyst must be neutralized quickly using sodium hydroxide.

“You must have very good and fast blending when you introduce the sodium hydroxide,” said Penney, “or the dextrose will degrade in the presence of strong caustic.” The reactor system designed by the Staley Engineering Team is currently in use by Henkel, at plants in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Dusseldorf, Germany. Henkel uses the alkyl polyglocoside in its products, including Dial soaps, and sells it to other companies such as Procter and Gamble.

AIChE has also named Penney a Fellow for his contributions to the organization and to the chemical engineering profession. He has been a member of the AIChE student contest problem subcommittee, which develops and grades problems for undergraduate contests, and he is theauthor of the 2012 AIChE Contest Problem, “The Production of non-Alcoholic Beer from Alcoholic Beer by use of Membranes." Penney was chair of the Contest Problem subcommittee from 1995 to 2003, and he was chair of programming for the North American Mixing Forum from 1989 to 1995.


Release date: 1/4/2012