The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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The crucial and potentially fatal problem with breast cancer has remained a mystery for more than a century: Why do different kinds of breast cancer cells tend to spread to specific organs, such as the brain, bone, or lungs? That’s the killer. Now the National Science Foundation has given Shelly Peyton of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst a mandate to address this key problem in a totally new way by awarding her a $590,000 grant for 36 months.

In face of unprecedented growth in its student body, the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department is building a new home base for ChE students to meet, socialize, study, use sophisticated computers, hear lectures, and collaborate on projects. The department plans to move its undergraduate hub from the small room in the basement of Goessmann Hall, known affectionately as “the Cave,” to a renovated area on the first floor of Goessmann Hall.

The July 2012 issue (Volume 5, Number 7) of the important journal Energy & Environmental Science will feature a cover story by Paul Dauenhauer of the Chemical Engineering Department. The title of the cover article is “Pyrolytic conversion of cellulose to fuels: levoglucosan deoxygenation via elimination and cyclization within molten biomass.” As Dauenhauer explains the research described in his article, “In short, we discovered that wood, when heated, has a previously unknown second chemistry.

Dr. Bahram “Barry” and Mrs. Afsaneh Siadat of Miami Beach have pledged $150,000 over a five-year period to establish an Early Career Faculty Development Award for supporting the research program of an untenured faculty member in the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department at UMass Amherst. Strong preference will be given to faculty working in the broad field of bioengineering, a strategic growth area for the department and the College of Engineering that aims at developing revolutionary technologies to improve the quality of human life.

Chemical Engineering (ChE) alumna Rena Bizios ’68 recently lectured here on “Strategies to Promote Mammalian Cell Functions Pertinent to New Tissue Formation for Biomedical Applications.” It was a great opportunity for the ChE department to renew old and warm acquaintances with a former student who has excelled in her field. The highly accomplished Dr. Bizios is currently the Peter T. Flawn Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Dr.

Talented and accomplished students from all four departments at the College of Engineering have won numerous awards, scholarships, fellowships, and other distinctions this semester on the national, regional, and campus level. They range from the prestigious National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship, competing against the best undergraduates in the nation, to a host of awards presented by the chancellor.

A team led by Paul Dauenhauer of the Chemical Engineering Department has discovered a new, high-yield method of producing the key ingredient used to make recyclable plastic bottles from biomass. The process is inexpensive and currently creates the chemical p-xylene with an efficient yield of 75-percent, using most of the biomass feedstock. The research is published in the journal ACS Catalysis. Dauenhauer says the new discovery shows that there is an efficient, renewable way to produce a chemical that has immediate and recognizable use for consumers.

On April 20 and 21, the University of Massachusetts Amherst will host the Northeast Regional Meeting of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). The conference theme will be “Nanotech: Novel Applications and New Opportunities in Technology, Engineering, and Chemistry.” The conference will be held on April 20 on the 10th floor of the UMass Campus Center, and on April 21 in the Integrated Science Building.

Chemical engineering undergraduates Kathryn Geldart and Sarena Horava have both received one of the country’s most highly sought-after fellowships, the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship, worth more than $40,000 annually for three years. The fellowship is based on each candidate’s overall undergraduate record, including academics, research experience, internships, awards, publications, college activities, and a research proposal based on the kind of work that might be conducted in graduate school.

Robert Coolman, a graduate student in chemical engineering in the research laboratory of George Huber, discussed his research on building and using biofuels reactions to create green gasoline and critical industrial petrochemicals during a long interview on, a website supported by the National Science Foundation to publicize its funded research. Using a combination of experiments and mathematical models, Coolman designs and builds biofuel reactors and studies how the chemicals that make up plants interact with catalysts to form fuel.


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