The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Marcel Vanpée, 94, died February 3rd, 2011, surrounded by his wife and daughters. Marcel Vanpée was Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His scientific research and teaching led him from his native Belgium to Lovanium University in the former Belgian Congo and then to the United States, first in 1948 as a research fellow at the University of Minnesota and then in 1957 to pursue research in combustion science at the Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh.

Paul J. Dauenhauer of the Chemical Engineering Department has been awarded a one-year, $80,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct basic research on the chemical process pyrolysis - breaking down woody biomass by heating it. Dr. Dauenhauer seeks to unlock the complex chemistry that takes place when wood is heated. He says heating woody biomass to high temperatures actually creates a brief liquid state before it turns to gas and this liquid state is of particular interest to scientists trying to produce the basic chemicals needed for biofuels.

The College of Engineering welcomes Dr. Shelly Peyton as a new faculty member to the Chemical Engineering Department. She comes to UMass Amherst after serving as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, beginning in 2007. Her research emphasis at MIT was “Mesenchymal Stem Cell Migration in 3-D Synthetic ECM Analogs.”

Research by George Huber and his research team from the Chemical Engineering Department, which has developed an economical process for producing chemical feedstocks from waste biomass, is attracting international attention from the chemical industry after the team’s article appeared in the November 26 issue of Science. His most high-profile coverage was in the January 6 issues of the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Chemical engineering major Annuli Okoye has been awarded a very selective scholarship from the American Chemical Society’s Scholars Program for African American, Hispanic, and American Indian Chemical Science Students. Each year the ACS awards renewable scholarships to underrepresented minority students who want to enter the fields of chemistry or chemistry-related fields, such as environmental science, toxicology, and chemical technology. Awards of up to $5,000 are given to qualified students.

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.


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