The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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The College of Engineering welcomes nine new faculty members, some of whom arrived last spring, some of whom are arriving for the fall semester, and the rest reporting in January of 2015. Boris Lau and Eric Gonzales are joining the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. Sarah Perry and Jungwoo Lee are part of the Chemical Engineering Department. Daniel Holcomb and Jianhua Yang are new members of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. And Maureen Lynch, Chaitra Gopalappa, and Jae-Hwang Lee are joining the faculty in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department.

A professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is doing something inspiring to address the ongoing problem of far too few women in engineering and science. As part of a $590,000 three-year grant co-funded from the National Science Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Shelly Peyton of the UMass Chemical Engineering Department has been running a five-week summer educational outreach program that has transformed the future career goals of two female students from Amherst Regional High School.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Foundation has established an endowment fund to be known as the Armstrong/Siadat Endowed Professorship in Materials Science with a cash gift of $750,000 from John and Elizabeth Armstrong and a $750,000 pledge from Barry and Afsaneh Siadat. The endowed professorship will be awarded to a researcher in the area of materials science in the UMass Amherst chemical engineering department. Barry Siadat says, “The endowed professorship will attract an outstanding leader who will be a bit like a magnet, building a world-class program that will improve the quality of life.”

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

On April 7, when the ninth annual University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge final business plan competition was held, mDiagnostics, the  team from the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, garnered $15,000 in prize money to support development and marketing of its reliable, portable, single-use, low-cost, Hepatitis C screening device. The team was led by ECE doctoral student Akshaya Shanmugam and guided by her ECE faculty advisor Christopher Salthouse.

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.

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