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Peter Monson, who was just appointed by the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees as a Distinguished Professor in the Chemical Engineering Department, has reached his august status by following the guiding principle of Ockham’s Razor. Ockham's Razor is attributed to a 14th-century English logician, theologian, and Franciscan friar, Father William of Ockham, who wrote that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity." The principle is popularly summarized as "the simplest explanation is usually the correct one."

Research by George Huber, his post-doctoral researcher Rong Xing, and their colleagues in the Chemical Engineering Department, who have developed a new four-step, practical, and economical process for producing jet and diesel fuels from waste biomass, is attracting international attention from the chemical industry. The new process uses raw materials that represent waste from power plants, wood manufacturing plants, and pulp mills and yields alkanes more suitable for transportation fuels than any previous methods.

On Thursday, October 21, Dr. John Finn, the co-founder and vice-president for technology infrastructure at Bloom Energy of Sunnyvale, California, delivered the 11th annual Tang Lecture on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. The title of his lecture was “Energy Startup to Energy Industry.” Dr. Finn received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from UMass Amherst in 1990, under the supervision of Professor Peter Monson.

The College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst held its first annual Outstanding Alumni Awards Luncheon during Homecoming Weekend, on Saturday, October 16, 2010. The luncheon included the presentation of College of Engineering Outstanding Junior/Senior Alumni Awards to individuals who, through exemplary accomplishments, epitomize the potential of an education at the UMass Amherst College of Engineering. The event happened from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. in the 10th floor Amherst Room of the UMass Amherst Campus Center.

On October 1, Lixin Gao of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Jeffrey Davis of the Chemical Engineering Department were two of the eight “nationally acclaimed faculty members” presented with the Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity at the Sixth Annual Faculty Convocation. The convocation took place at 11:00 a.m. in Bowker Auditorium of Stockbridge Hall.

On September 18, Monique Farrell, a first-year chemical engineering major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was presented with the second annual Ahadi Youth Award at a ceremony in the Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, Massachusetts. Farrell is a 2010 graduate of the High School of Commerce. The Ahadi Youth Award is presented by the African Hall Subcommittee of the Springfield Museums to “an African-American young person who demonstrates strong character, leadership, academic achievement, and future potential.”

Chemical engineering junior Kevin Cunningham might be a veteran thespian, having acted in many productions throughout his days at Braintree High School and the College of Engineering, but don’t forget. He’s also an engineer. That’s why, when he tried out for his most demanding role in the UMass Theatre Guild production of Sweeney Todd, he left nothing to chance. He engineered his performance in advance so he could bring plenty of chemistry to his character.

Many of us at the College of Engineering know very little about the larger-than-life faculty members who ran the college during its early years, even those professors whose names have been immortalized in our buildings. One of these pioneers was Professor of Chemical Engineering Joseph Sol Marcus of Marcus Hall fame. The college recently uncovered a moving tribute to Dr. Marcus written shortly after he died of cancer on November 1, 1985.

Recent chemical engineering graduate Matthew Coggon won a 2010 Undergraduate Student Award in Environmental Chemistry from the American Chemical Society (ACS) for, among other accomplishments, his research on acid mine drainage. As his two faculty advisors, former Associate Professor Sarina Ergas of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and Professor David Ford (shown) of the Chemical Engineering Department, said about Coggon: “Matt is capable of working at the interface between chemical engineering, environmental engineering, geosciences, and microbiology to make a contribution to our understanding of the worldwide environmental problem of acid mine drainage.”

One surprising trait in Bill Woodburn, who earned his B.S. from our Chemical Engineering Department in 1956, is his admiration of history, and especially Winston Churchill. That’s why he likes to tell this anecdote. Once, when asked how history would view him, Churchill responded, “Quite well, since I plan to write most of it myself.” No wonder, then, that Woodburn was so enthusiastic about recalling his memories at the College of Engineering from 1952 to 1956. That way, just like Churchill, he gets to write part of the history himself.

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