The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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A research team from our Chemical Engineering Department reports in the November 26 issue of Science that it has developed a way to produce high-volume chemical feedstocks, including benzene, toluene, xylenes, and olefins, from pyrolytic bio-oils, the cheapest liquid fuels available today derived from biomass. As George Huber, the Armstrong Associate Professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at UMass Amherst, explains, "Thanks to this breakthrough, we can meet the need to make commodity chemical feedstocks entirely through processing pyrolysis oils. We are making the same molecules from biomass that are currently being produced from petroleum, with no infrastructure changes required."

At the annual student conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in early November at Salt Lake City, chemical engineering major Chris Lowe was elected to serve as the Chair of the AIChE Executive Student Committee for the coming year. The committee is AIChE's national student executive board. “As Chair I'll work with the other committee members to represent the needs of student chapters around the country to the professional organization,” said Lowe about his new position.

As part of a continuing series on alumni awards, a Bethesda, Maryland, couple, Stéphanie Raimondeau and Joseph Watson, was honored on October 16 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with College of Engineering 2010 Outstanding Junior Alumni Awards for “serving as worthy ambassadors for the college and demonstrating extraordinary effort and notable success in their early careers.” Both Raimondeau and Watson were graduate students in the Chemical Engineering Department at UMass Amherst.

Associate Professor Neil Forbes of the Chemical Engineering Department has published a review entitled “Engineering the perfect (bacterial) cancer therapy” in the November 2010 (Vol 10 No 11) edition of the prestigious publication, Nature Reviews (Cancer). As Dr. Forbes summarizes such a “perfect therapy” in his article: “It would be tiny programmable 'robot factories' that specifically target tumors, are selectively cytotoxic to cancer cells, are self-propelled, are responsive to external signals, can sense the local environment, and are externally detectable.”

On November 5, a shoebox-sized vehicle with the intriguing name of “Green Rock Eating Monster” will try to take Salt Lake City by storm with a hail of hydrogen electrons. The little vehicle, which runs on clean green hydrogen, is the University of Massachusetts Amherst entry in the national Chem-E-Car Competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) at its Annual Student Conference in Salt Lake City.

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.


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