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CEBC Graduates Are Prepared to Solve 21st Century Environmental Challenges

Monday, May 25, 2009

Concerns about human impact on the environment have heightened the demand for greener technologies.  The Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC) is helping to meet this demand by training the next generation of scientists and engineers.

A total of nine CEBC students graduated this academic year, four of these with doctoral degrees as described below.  All CEBC graduate students have research projects related to developing efficient, non-polluting, methods to make industrial chemicals, drugs, or fuels.  CEBC students also take unique courses and meet regularly with industrial scientists and engineers. 

Recently hooded doctoral students include:

Jing Fang, PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Kansas has taken a postdoctoral position at KU with Prof. Bala Subramaniam.  Jing’s dissertation focused on how to retain expensive catalysts inside the reactor during chemical processes.  She recently received a student travel award to present her research at the North American Catalysis Society meeting in San Francisco, CA this summer.

Janardhan Garikipati, PhD in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, graduated from the University of Iowa.  Janardhan’s dissertation focused on how to engineer bacteria to produce a specific biocatalyst.  Also known as enzymes, biocatalysts are highly selective.  This means that they produce the desired product without making wasteful by-products.  Janardhan recently started working at Genomatica in San Diego, California.

Kening Gong, PhD in Chemical Engineering, graduated with honors from the University of Kansas.  Kening was recently hired by CEBC member company ConocoPhillips.  His dissertation focused on developing economically viable solid acid catalysts for specific processes that are important in fuel production.  Replacing conventional mineral acids, such as sulfuric acid, with these environmentally beneficial alternatives is one of the industry’s grand challenges. Kening’s dissertation won the Chemical & Petroleum Engineering Department’s Maloney Award for Writing.

Matthew Sherrill, PhD in Organic Chemistry, graduated with honors from the University of Kansas.  Matt survived a motorcycle accident in his second year of grad school (http://www.news.ku.edu/2009/may/13/sherrill.shtml).  Despite this life-changing experience, Matt and his mentor, Michael Rubin, invented a new approach to make a triangle-shaped molecule called formyl-cyclopropane, which is an important building block for pharmaceutical drugs.  This novel approach was highlighted in Chemical and Engineering News, Oct. 6, 2008.  After graduation, Matt will head to Germany for three months of training before taking a postdoctoral appointment with the U.S. Army Research Lab at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.  

Class of 2009 Bachelor of Science and Master of Science Degrees include:
 
Brandon Cotton, BS in Chemical Engineering at Prairie View A&M University
Lennis Jones, BS in Chemical Engineering at Prairie View A&M University
Brandon Long, MS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kansas
Carmen Owens, MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa
Elijah Thimsen, MS in Chemical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis

--Story by Claudia Bode



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