News

Professor Susan Roberts of the Chemical Engineering Department and Professor Elizabeth Vierling of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology have received a $150,000 grant from the University of Massachusetts President’s Science and Technology (S&T) Fund to support their collaborative project, entitled “Massachusetts BioFoundry; Center for Discovery & Synthesis of Bioactive and Industrial Molecules.” The S&T Fund is intended to support campus and multi-campus initiatives that strengthen the university’s research and development base, deepen our ties with Massachusetts industry and research institutions, leverage external resources, and contribute to economic growth in the Commonwealth. Roberts is also the associate dean of the Graduate School and director of the Institute for Cellular Engineering (ICE). Read related press release published in Business West.

The Medical Advisory Board of Earlier.org (Friends For An Earlier Breast Cancer Test®) has awarded a $40,000 grant to Neil Forbes of our Chemical Engineering Department. His grant proposal is titled, “Detection of micro-scale tumors and metastases with non-toxic bacteria.” Forbes proposes a breast cancer detection technique for micro-scale cancer lesions that can discover both early breast tumors and small metastatic lesions after primary tumor resection. His technique for early breast cancer detection would reduce cancer spreading and increase patient survival. The proposed research will create a non-toxic and non-invasive Salmonella strain that expresses and secretes an exogenous biomarker specifically in breast cancer, and then this simple “cancer reporter” can be detected in a blood sample.

Hong Je Cho, a chemical engineering graduate student working in the research lab of ChE Professor Wei Fan, recently published articles in two of the most impactful journals in the general field of catalysis, meaning the increase in the rate of a chemical reaction of one or more reactants due to the participation of an additional substance called a catalyst. “One of my students, Hong Je Cho, just had two papers published on ACS Catalysis and Green Chemistry,” said Fan. “The two journals have highest impact factors in the fields of catalysis, one is 5 and another one is 7. The one published in Green Chemistry is one of the most-read articles so far and selected as front cover [see illustration] of the issue in July.”

On May 27, Shelly Peyton, chemical engineering, Caitlyn Butler, civil and environmental engineering, Paula Sturdevant Rees, director of diversity programs at the College of Engineering, recent alumna Rachel Roberts, and graduate student Paula Santiago were all interviewed for a report on the stereotypes about women in engineering and the hurdles they often need to clear in order to pursue careers in the field. During the wide-ranging discussion, Butler pointed out that women often respond differently than men to the grades they get in their courses. “I think there’s a confidence issue,” Butler said. “I think there’s kind of a gender gap there. When a male student gets his first test back, and he gets a less-than-perfect grade on it, he’s like, ‘All right! I passed. I survived. I did all right.’ And then a girl may say, ‘I didn’t do so well on this. I’m not cut out for it.’” Go to WBUR-FM Boston.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the College of Engineering was one of two teams from UMass Amherst to share the 2014 Armstrong Fund for Science Award. Assistant Professors Shelly Peyton and Jessica Schiffman of the Chemical Engineering Department and Stephen Nonnenmann of the Mechanical Engineering Department will receive $30,000 for their project, “Nanomechanics, biofilms and cystic fibrosis.” The purpose of the Armstrong Fund for Science Award is to encourage transformative research on campus that introduces new ways of thinking about pressing scientific or technical challenges.

Aura Ganz of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has been chosen as a 2014 “Spotlight Scholar” by the UMass Amherst Research Next website. Spotlight Scholars are UMass Amherst faculty members who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in research, scholarship, or creative activity. Professor Ganz was picked from an exceptional pool of nominees for this award, which honors and recognizes individual faculty members who exemplify the quality and commitment of UMass Amherst academics. Recognition comes with a $500 cash prize, commemorative poster, and publicity. Ganz was also selected recently to receive the College of Engineering 2014 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award. See Spotlight Scholar webpage: http://www.umass.edu/researchnext/spotlight-scholars.

the UMass Amherst chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) sent 25 members to the 2014 Northeast Student Regional AIChEConference, held this year at the University of Connecticut, with 350 students in attendance. The event attracted undergraduate chemical engineering students from 21 schools, traveling from as far away as McGill, Cornell, and Maine, to as near as UMass Amherst and the University of New Haven. The regional event featured the popular Chem-E Car race, the Chem-E Jeopardy Challenge, student paper and poster competitions, and a host of workshops to help students with their networking and job-hunting skills. The UMass contingent was led by UMass AIChE chapter president Lucas Blauch, a senior who will attend Stanford University next year as a graduate student.

Paul Dauenhauer, the Armstrong Professional Development Professor and DuPont Young Professor in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department, is one of 15 researchers in the country to be chosen for an ultracompetitive Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. As ChE Head T.J. Lakis Mountziaris explained, Dauenhauer’s groundbreaking research is “addressing national priorities and global grand challenges in the area of energy and environmental sustainability. Paul’s transformative research will contribute to our country’s energy independence, sustainability, and economic development.”

Marianne Sleiman, a junior chemical engineering major from Greenville, Rhode Island, is one of three Commonwealth Honors College students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to receive scholarships for work in the natural sciences and engineering as part of the highly competitive Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Goldwater scholarships are intended to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. Each competing university nominated its top four students, who were then evaluated by the national Goldwater Scholarship selection committee. From a field of 1,166 mathematics, science, and engineering students nominated by colleges and universities, 283 received scholarships, and 247 received honorable mentions.

UMass Amherst and College of Engineering Alumnus Barry Bahram Siadat was the recipient of a University of Massachusetts Distinguished Achievement Award at the university’s Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 9, in McGuirk Alumni Stadium. Dr. Siadat earned his M.S. in Polymer Science and Engineering in 1977 and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 1979 from UMass Amherst. He is the co-founder, president and managing director of SK Capital Partners. His career as a scientist, business leader, and investor comprises senior leadership in both privately held and major public corporations. Dr. Siadat is author of over 25 scientific publications and over 20 patents.