posted November 13, 2009

Students Honored at Chemical Engineering Conference

Several Hope College students who participated in research on campus this past summer had their work selected for presentation during the recent Annual Meeting and National Student Conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), with one receiving a second-place award.

Six students attended the conference, presenting five posters concerning research.  Junior Joseph Brandonisio of Troy won second place in the "General Papers" category, earning the honor for a presentation that he co-authored with junior Victor Kanyi of Marigat, Kenya, who also attended the conference.  While Brandonisio and Kanyi collaborated on their project, the awards are based on a single presenter's remarks during the event's judging phase and the overall quality of the poster.

The National Student Conference ran Friday-Monday, Nov. 6-9, and the Annual Meeting ran Sunday-Friday, Nov. 8-13, in Nashville, Tenn.  The undergraduate poster session took place on Monday, Nov. 9, and featured work grouped within a variety of categories within the field of chemical engineering.

This was the second consecutive year that a student who participated in Hope's summer research program received an award in this national competition.  Last year's winner was among the students from other colleges and universities who had participated in Hope's summer research program.

Of the students who attended, three were juniors, two were sophomores, and one was a freshman who had participated in research through Hope's REACH program last summer.  Dr. Michael Misovich, a member of the Hope faculty who is active in AIChE and was a judge in one of the categories in which Hope students were not participating, noted that it is exceptional for underclassmen to participate in this national competition--but not for Hope students.  Last year, two Hope sophomores participated.

Misovich noted that the outstanding quality that he observed in the presentations - in both the category that he judged and overall - makes the students' achievement all the more remarkable.

"The quality of the posters and presentations that I observed at this national meeting was extremely high," said Misovich, who is an associate professor of engineering.  "It was difficult to select the three award winners in my category because there were so many excellent posters on important research topics and the presenters communicated their work to me so effectively."

The preliminary program for the student poster session listed 203 posters.  The five posters for which the primary presenter was a Hope student was a higher total than all other colleges and universities in Michigan combined.  Of the 68 colleges and universities listed as affiliation of the primary presenter, only eight institutions had more posters in this event than HopeCollege.  The primary presenters represented institutions in 32 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Israel, Italy and Mexico.

All of the participating Hope students are engineering majors in the chemical, biochemical or environmental engineering emphasis options, or are intending to declare their major in one of the options.  Two Hope faculty in chemistry and one in engineering were mentors for one or more of the projects, along with a Hope chemistry post-doc.

° Brandonisio's and Kanyi's project was "Purification and Analysis of Bacteria Contaminated Water Using Slow Sand Filtration and Metal Ions."  They conducted their research with Dr. Michael J. Pikaart, associate professor of chemistry.

° Laine Klopfenstein, a sophomore from Evanston, Ill., presented "Calculating Vapor Pressure and Concentration for Binary Mixtures through Equations of State."  She conducted her research with Misovich.

°Whitney Askew, a sophomore from Canton, presented "Truncatio Error of PRSV Vapor Pressures Calculated by a Series Method," which she co-authored with Amy Miller, a student from MuskingumCollege in Ohio who was a research student at Hope in the summer of 2007.  They conducted their research with Misovich.

° Daniel Denby, a freshman from Westmont, Ill., who participated in research through the REACH program for high school students, and junior Abigail Phillips of Wayland alternated as primary and co-authors on two related projects.  Denby presented "The Chemistry behind the Conversion of Vegetable Oils to Biodiesel," and Phillips presented "Optimizing Pilot Plant Biodiesel Production."  The others involved in the two research projects were Peter N. Larsen, who is a Holland High School science teacher who also participated in research at Hope through the REACH program; Dr. Sameer Chavda, who is a post-doctoral researcher in chemistry; Dr. Moses Lee, who is dean for the natural and applied sciences and a professor of chemistry at Hope; and Misovich.

In addition to the posters by Hope students, the event's presentations included "High-Throughput Reconstruction and Optimization of 130 New Genome-Scale Metabolic Models" by Christopher Henry of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.  The research team working with Henry has included Hope faculty members Dr. Matt DeJongh, associate professor of computer science, and Dr. Aaron Best, assistant professor of biology, who are both Towsley Research Scholars at Hope, and Hope senior biology major Paul Frybarger of Muskegon.

AIChE is the world's leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, with nearly 40,000 members from 93 countries.  More than 4,000 attended the 2009 AIChE Annual Meeting and National Student Conference, which featured more than 700 sessions focused on the latest developments in areas ranging from ranging from core chemical engineering fundamentals to emerging technologies in Quality by Design (co-sponsored by U.S. FDA), Energy, Sustainability and Nanotechnology.