Graduate Student Spotlight: Sarvada Chipkar

Sarvada Chipkar
Sarvada Chipkar

PhD candidate Sarvada Chipkar (chemical engineering) was featured by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center in a Q&A spotlighting her research in the lab of Rebecca Ong (ChE).

“Today we spoke to Sarvada Chipkar, a PhD candidate in Ong Research Laboratory at Michigan Technological University. Sarvada is from Mumbai, India and received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mumbai in 2017. She speaks on the power of positivity and passion when it comes to taking a leap.”

Read more at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, by Madelyn Anderson.

Kyle Griffin Nominated for Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award

Kyle Griffin
Kyle Griffin

The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is seeking input for its annual Distinguished Teaching Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions to Michigan Tech’s instructional mission. Based on more than 40,000 student ratings of instruction responses, 10 finalists have been identified for the 2023 awards. The selection committee is soliciting comments from students, staff, faculty and alumni to be referenced during their deliberations.

Among the Assistant Professor/Teaching Professor/Professor of Practice finalists is Kyle Griffin, who is an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Comments for the finalists are due by March 31 and can be submitted online.

The process for determining the Distinguished Teaching Award recipients from this list of finalists also involves the additional surveying of their spring 2023 classes. The selection committee makes the final determination of the award recipients. The 2023 Distinguished Teaching Awards will be formally announced in May.

For more information, contact the CTL at or 906-487-3000.

Michigan Tech and Eagle Mine Partner for EV Battery Recycling Innovation and Climate Sustainability

Lei Pan standing near equipment in the lab
Lei Pan

11/29/2022—On Nov. 16, the Biden Administration announced a $74 million funding package to advance domestic battery recycling and reuse that will strengthen the nation’s battery supply chain. Michigan Technological University and Eagle Mine are co-recipients of part of this funding. $8.1 million will be used to prove new research technologies that develop sustainable processes to supply critical minerals for electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing.

An additional $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy grant program was also awarded to Michigan Tech and Eagle Mine, which will enable the University to study carbon dioxide mineralization opportunities in Eagle Mine’s tailings facility. The money will be used to develop new technologies that enable accelerated carbon mineralization using mine tailing minerals.

“Eagle Mine is proud to partner with Michigan Tech and support sustainable technologies that will create critical mineral pathways for future demand,” said Darby Stacey, managing director of Eagle Mine. “Eagle Mine is the only nickel mine in the United States, and the availability of our experience and use of our resources, waste streams and nickel concentrates are essential to understanding the societal impact of the nation’s transportation needs.”

“The state of Michigan is the home to the automotive industry, nickel mining industry and future lithium-ion battery industry in this nation,” said Lei Pan, associate professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech and principal investigator of both funded projects. “Addressing both the supply of critical minerals and reprocessing and reuse of mine tailings is critical to advance sustainability in the mining industry.”

Read more at Michigan Tech News.


Supplying Refined Battery Materials into the United States Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain by Synergizing Lithium-ion Battery Recycling with Mine Waste Reclamation

APPLICANT: Michigan Technological University (Houghton, MI)

Federal Cost Share: $8,137,783
Recipient Cost Share: $2,034,483
Supply Chain Segment: Recycling

Project Description

This project addresses several economic and technical challenges in the lithium-ion battery recycling industry, including, 1) low payable metals, 2) difficulty in achieving specifications for battery-grade lithium from mixed secondary feedstock, 3) high operational costs and environmental impact of the state-of-the-art recycling practices. The project will develop and demonstrate an innovative synergized battery recycling and metal refining technology and accelerate its commercialization to achieve product demonstration and process validation. The pilot-scale facility (Q3 2023 start) aims to process 5-20 kilowatt hour (kWh) of battery cells and modules per day, producing both intermediate lithium and nickel products as well as battery-grade lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) and nickel
sulfate (NiSO4).

The project team consists of engineers and experts in subject matter, commercialization, permitting, and investor/community engagement to ensure the success of this project with the end goal of enabling commercialization of these technologies to the benefit of the electric vehicle Li-ion battery supply chain in the United States. Potential project impacts include:

  • Reducing total energy use and total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by at least 25% per nickel unit produced compared to the state-of-the-art recycling practice.
  • Establishing a profitable U.S. battery recycling business regardless of the types of cathode chemistry.
  • Supplying additional nickel and cobalt minerals from unconventional resources. If further successful, an additional 56 million lbs. of nickel and 2 million lbs. of cobalt from Eagle’s Humboldt Tailing Disposal Facility (HTDF) will be recoverable.

Support from DOE will directly impact the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, primarily (but not limited to) the counties of Houghton and Marquette. The support from DOE is critical to help MTU move from lab to pilot-scale and result in regional workforce and job creation through Nion Metals, a MTU spin-off. MTU will be working with our partner, Michigan Works, to help identify, recruit and train new employees.


Shonnard, Handler, and Chaudhari on the Circular Economy for PETs

David Shonnard
David Shonnard
Robert Handler
Robert Handler
Utkarsh Chaudhari
Utkarsh Chaudhari

David Shonnard, Robert Handler, and graduate student Utkarsh Chaudhari (chemical engineering) were mentioned by Waste Today Magazine in “Gauging the flows,” a story about a report they co-authored (DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.2c04004) that gauges whether a circular economy is achievable for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyolefin polymers in the U.S.

The report, published by ACS Publications, provides material flow and life cycle assessment data sets for these materials while also estimating total supply chain greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption.

The report provides material flow and life cycle assessment data sets for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyolefin polymers in the U.S. while also estimating total supply chain greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption. Polyolefins [DT1] researched include high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP), low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE).

Shonnard says phase one findings show where improvements need to be made to achieve a circular economy for plastics.

“We were able to develop a systems analysis of the entire U.S. plastics supply chain for these plastics,” he says.

Read more at Waste Today Magazine, by Megan Smalley.


Material Flow Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment of Polyethylene Terephthalate and Polyolefin Plastics Supply Chains in the United States

Utkarsh S. Chaudhari, Anne T. Johnson, Barbara K. Reck, Robert M Handler, Vicki S. Thompson, Damon S. Hartley, Wendy Young, David Watkins, and David Shonnard

ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2022, 10, 39, 13145–13155
Publication Date:September 22, 2022
Copyright © 2022 American Chemical Society

2022 ChE EAB Poster Exhibition Winners

The Department of Chemical Engineering (ChE) would like to congratulate the following students as winners of the External Advisory Board (EAB) Poster Session.

Undergrad Research

  • First Place: Libby Umlor
  • Second Place: Sheridan Waldack

Graduate Research

  • First Place: Seth Kriz
  • Second Place (tie): Sarvada Chipkar and Grace Dykstra

Student Organization

  • First Place: Nathan Summers and Addymae Palecek (AIChE)
  • Second Place: Katie Smith (Omega Chi Epsilon)

These posters and their research are posted in the hallways (Chem Sci second and third floors). All faculty, staff and students are encouraged to come see what research our students and faculty are involved in.

By Chemical Engineering.

Outstanding Scholarship Award for Sarvada Chipkar

Sarvada Chipkar
Sarvada Chipkar

Chemical engineering graduate student Sarvada Chipkar is a recipient of the Outstanding Scholarship Award for Fall 2022, as announced by Michigan Tech’s Graduate School. She was nominated by her department in recognition of her academic performance. A certificate of recognition for this award will be presented at the Graduate Research Colloquium Banquet that is held in the spring.

Chipkar is a fifth year PhD student in Rebecca Ong’s Biofuel and Bioproducts Laboratory at Michigan Tech. She completed her Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in Chemical Engineering from University of Mumbai, India, in 2017. Her current research focuses on characterizing fungal inhibitors generated in switchgrass during the U.S. Midwestern drought of 2012. In her free time, she likes to do gardening, painting, and cooking/baking. She won an award for her research poster in the “applied research” category at the Symposium for Biomaterials, Fuels and Chemicals (SBFC) organized by SIMB, the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, in May 2022.

Research Abstract

Developing economically viable and greener pathways to synthesize renewable energy has become an important research theme in recent years. Lignocellulosic biomass is a promising group of feedstocks that can be used for second-generation biofuel production. Recent research has shown that environmental growth conditions alter biomass characteristics and directly influence the extent of biomass conversion to fuels. Environmental scientists have predicted that the effects of climate change would affect marginal lands more than fertile ones. Previously, drought experienced during the growth of switchgrass on marginal land led to complete inhibition of yeast growth during fermentation. Our goal in this project was to characterize specific compounds that led to this inhibition. Switchgrass harvested in drought (2012) and non-drought (2010) years were pretreated using Ammonia Fiber Expansion (AFEX). Untreated and AFEX processed samples were then extracted using solvents (i.e., water, ethanol, and ethyl acetate) to selectively remove potential inhibitory compounds. A key goal was to determine whether the microbial inhibitors were plant-generated compounds, by-products of the pretreatment process, or a combination of both. High solids loading enzymatic hydrolysis was performed on all samples, followed by fermentation using Saccharomyces cerevisiae (GLBRCY945). Cell growth (OD600), sugar consumption, and ethanol production were used to evaluate fermentation performance. Extracts were analyzed using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to identify potential inhibitory compounds. Non-targeted positive ion mode MS analysis was conducted to annotate the identities of unknown inhibitors. We found that water extraction of drought-year switchgrass before AFEX pretreatment was most effective in overcoming yeast inhibition. We identified plant-generated compounds called saponins, commonly known as “natural laundry detergents”, in the water extracts that foam on agitation with water. These may potentially contribute towards yeast inhibition.

NOBCChE Brings Chemistry to Baraga Youth

As part of its goal of outreach to the local community and promoting STEM — and chemistry in particular — to young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the MTU student chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) recently organized an outreach event for the high school chemistry class of Baraga Area Schools.

A hands-on explorative activity on paper chromatography was the focus of the outreach event, introducing students to the wide array of applications of chromatography as a separation technique. After introducing students to the concept of chromatography, students were able to see it come alive by separating various colored inks into their constituents. After this introductory activity, students used their chromatography skills to do some forensic analysis on an ink sample and pens from various “suspects” to see who was responsible for defacing a very expensive book from the school library. Finally, the volunteers engaged the students in a discussion to synthesize their observations and draw out the big scientific ideas.

The students were very focused, interactive and excited about the activities. Some of them, when asked to comment on the activity, noted that it was engaging and insightful. One even said, “This is so cool and fun.”

NOBCChE hopes to continue to get out in the local schools and open up the wide world of chemistry to area students. See photos from the outreach event.

Michigan Tech graduate students in chemistry and chemical engineering — Sodiq Waheed, Kobina Ofori, Parya Siacheshm and Monica Nyansa — organized this outreach event with NOBCCHE advisor Jeremy Brown (Chem). The event was funded by the NOBCChE K-12 Initiative.

By MTU NOBCChE Student Chapter.

Chemical Engineering Convocation 2022

The Department of Chemical Engineering proudly bestows honors and awards to ChE students each spring by way of a Convocation Awards Ceremony. Awards were presented on April 11, 2022.

The faculty and staff of Chemical Engineering join together in offering our sincerest congratulations to all of our honored recipients and this year’s graduating class. Kudos on your resilience, determination and drive for success.

Keynote Speaker

Meg Guillaumin ’03

Plant Manager at DTE Energy

Meg Guillaumin is a plant manager for DTE Energy, a Detroit-based energy company serving 2.2 million electric customers in Southeast Michigan and 1.3 million natural gas customers across the state. DTE Energy aspires to be the best operated energy company in North America, and a force for growth in the communities where we live and serve.

Meg is currently responsible for the Blue Water Energy Center, DTE Energy’s state of the art combined cycle natural gas facility set to begin commercial operation in spring 2022. Upon completion, Blue Water will supply enough electricity to power 850,000 homes and supports DTE Energy’s progress in reducing carbon emissions by more than 80% by 2040.

Prior to her current role Meg was the manager of the Greenwood Energy Center and Peaking organizations, constituting over 1/3 of DTE Energy’s total generating capacity. She has held other leadership roles in the operation, maintenance and engineering support of power plant facilities across her career.

Meg earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Michigan Technological University in 2003 and began her career with DTE Energy upon graduation. She is currently the chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering External Advisory Board.

Chair’s Award for Outstanding Chemical Engineering Senior

Riley Andersen

The Chair’s Award for Outstanding Chemical Engineering Senior recognizes the exceptional record of a chemical engineering graduating senior for their academic achievement, experiential learning activities, and community engagement. To be eligible for consideration the candidate must be graduating in the current calendar year, demonstrate their commitment to the chemical engineering profession, and show how their activities have positively impacted others through inspiration, action, and/or leadership. This award consists of a certificate and monetary award in the amount of $1,000

Excellence in Communication Award

Sarah Foyer

The Excellence in Communication Award was created to acknowledge the critical role that effective communication plays in successful leadership. This award recognizes a graduating senior from the department of chemical engineering for their effective use of communication of the highest standard. Candidates for this award may be nominated by faculty, staff, or students.

Professional Ethics Award

Gabrielle Feber

This award recognizes a student who has exhibited exemplary ethics and admirable professional conduct during Plant Design and Unit Operations experiences and throughout their academic career at Michigan Technological University.

Prevent Accidents With Safety (PAWS) Award

Bella Haberski

The Prevent Accidents with Safety (PAWS) Undergraduate Lab Safety Program is a comprehensive safety program requiring training, constant vigilance, and incident reporting and documentation systems— all with an eye toward critical review and continuous improvement. The Prevent Accidents with Safety (PAWS) program provides a framework to develop the necessary safety culture within the student community. The key to the PAWS program is that the students in the Unit Operations Laboratory bear the responsibility for personal health and safety and for the safety of those around them. Specific safety-related responsibilities are assigned to the students in addition to their course responsibilities. The student-owned portion of the PAWS program is built around a safety committee and a communications and documentation system.

Dow Chemical Marriot W. Bredekamp Award

Joshua Bilkey, Michael Schumacher, and Dianna Westrick

This award recognizes outstanding technical skills in the laboratory, outstanding teamwork and professionalism, effective oral and written communication, and strong adherence to process safety practices as recognized by your peers and supported by the faculty of the department. This award is in memory of Dr. Marriott W. Bredekamp.

Senior Design Team Awards

Dr. John Patton, as Chair and faculty member, initiated much of the content of today’s design courses in the ChE Department. He brought his experiences at Exxon to the classroom to provide students with a systematic way to design and analyze a new large-scale capital project. This award recognizes the student team in CM4861 that created the best plant design and recommendation for Fictitious Chemical Company. The three finalist teams for the Patton Award are:

Winner (John T. Patton Award for $1000): Team Bernoulli

Alicia Ball, Mykenzie Garza, Jessie McInnis, and Morgan Ottman for “Biomass to Transportation Fuels by the Fischer-Tropsch Process”

Runner-up ($600): Team Cupreous

AJ Alexa, Nate Liebhauser, Jeremy Lien, and Zachary Olson for “Vinyl Chloride Production by the Direct Chlorination of Ethylene”

Third Place ($400): Team Fenske

Clayton Lynn, Devon Price, John Sullens, and John Ylitalo for “Ibuprofen Production by the BHC Company Process”

Davis W. Hubbard Outstanding Rising Senior Award

Sheridan Waldack

Dr. Davis W. Hubbard was a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering for many years. He was committed to engineering education and inspired a generation of students to excel through hard work and perseverance. The eligible candidate for this award has completed all their junior-level core chemical engineering courses. The selection of the award is based on (i) grade point average for the course work done at Michigan Technological University, (ii) research engagement, and (iii) internship/co-op work experience. The award consists of a certificate and monetary award in the amount of $1000.

Student Organization Leadership Awards


Stephanie Manthei


Gabrielle Feber


Brooke Bates


Nathan Schaar


Devon Price


Jessie Lyons

AIChE Awards

Teacher of the Year Award

Jeanna Collins

Research Mentor of the Year Award

David Shonnard

Jeanna Collins with presenter.
Jeanna Collins (left)
David Shonnard with presenter.
David Shonnard (left)

Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year Award

John Szczap

Undergraduate Grader of the Year

Riley Smith

Staff Making a Difference Award

Katie Torrey

Katie Torrey with presenter.
Katie Torrey (left)

Peer Mentor and Coach of the Year

Tie: Quinn Miller and Riley Andersen

Quinn Miller with presenter.
Quinn Miller (left)
Riley Andersen with presenter.
Riley Andersen (left)