Author: College of Engineering

Sue Hill is the Digital Content Manager for the College of Engineering.

Heldt Group Attending ACS Fall 2023

Researchers in the Heldt Bioseparations Lab will be attending the ACS fall meeting on August 13–18.

Caryn Heldt – “Empty and full AAV capsid charge and hydrophobicity differences measured with single particle AFM”

Caryn Heldt is the James and Lorna Mack Chair in Bioengineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Caryn Heldt – “Virus encapsulation in polypeptide complexes for thermal stable vaccine formulations”

Caryn Heldt – “Expanding the diversity, equity, inclusion, and sense of belonging of graduate students at Michigan Tech”

Vaishali Sharma – “Mechanistic understanding of eco-friendly surfactants for virus inactivation”

Vaishali Sharma is a PhD student in biological sciences.

Seth Kriz – “Scaling down to scale up: Mass transport of viruses in aqueous two-phase systems”

Seth Kriz is a PhD student.

Natalie Nold – “Economics and process monitoring of continuous vaccine production using aqueous two-phase systems”

Natalie Nold is a PhD student.

The meeting will be held in San Francisco with a hybrid format. The 2023 meeting title is Harnessing the Power of Data.

ACS Meetings and Expositions are where chemistry professionals meet to share ideas and advance scientific and technical knowledge.

The Heldt Bioseparations Lab focuses on the science of viral surface interactions and applies it to vaccine manufacturing and purification.

Podcast: Systems of Support with Rebecca Ong

The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) is releasing the second season of Propelling Women in Power, one episode of which features Rebecca Ong, Director of Graduate Programs and Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University. Propelling Women in Power is a podcast about the careers of women in energy at the Wisconsin Energy Institute on the UW–Madison campus and our sister institution, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

In this episode, Becky Ong (ChE) shares her journey from her childhood love of plants to her groundbreaking research in converting them into biofuels. Listen in for insights on how academia can better support and empower women in STEM and how access to STEM education and representation should start in early childhood.

S2, Ep. 3 Listen (41:29)

Chemical Engineering Inducts Six into Distinguished Academy

Two people standing at the social ceremony.
Dean Janet Callahan and Bruce Janda at the academy social.

The department of Chemical Engineering inducted six alumni into our Distinguished Academy on Friday April 14th, 2023, at the Miscowaubik Club in Calumet.

The purpose of the Academy is to honor outstanding graduates of the Michigan Technological University Department of Chemical Engineering. Selection into the Academy recognizes excellence and leadership in engineering and civic affairs.

This induction honors some of the most successful alumni of Michigan Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering. Portraits and a brief biography of Academy members are prominently displayed on the Distinguished Academy Honor Wall in the hallway outside the main departmental offices to serve as inspirational role models for future Chemical Engineering students.

The 2023 Inductees include Bryan Glover ’86, Bruce Janda ’76, Carlos Jorda ’71, Brad Rick ’84, ’86, John Smuk ’55, Phillip Watters ’69.

Bryan Glover is President and CEO of Honeywell UOP, a Des Plaines, IL based company, which is the leading provider of technologies for the global energy and petrochemicals industries. Since 1914 UOP has led the development of technologies for oil refining, petrochemicals, natural gas processing and most recently a full range of sustainable technologies including renewable fuels, clean hydrogen, carbon capture, energy storage and advanced plastics recycling.

Bruce W. Janda recently retired as Senior Consultant at Fisher International. He is a TAPPI Fellow and Education Committee Chair of TAPPI’s Tissue Division. He is also a tissue paper product and process expert, serving as the leader of TAPPI’s Tissue 101, 202, and 203 courses. Bruce continues to write and consult on the tissue business and technology as InnovaSpec, LLC.

With 52 years of experience in the international oil and gas industry, Carlos Jordá has served at the highest executive levels in refining and marketing, corporate planning, finance, and the production of Syncrude from Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt with PDVSA, rising to President of PDV America and Chairman of the CITGO Board of Directors.

Brad Rick graduated from MTU with degrees in Chemical Engineering (BSChE 1984, MSChE 1986). He spent his 35 year career with Amway Corporation in Ada, Michigan, beginning as a Process Engineer developing and scaling processes for personal care and cosmetic products. Brad transitioned to Product Development leading engineering and design efforts for a small appliance division where he received four US patents and multiple foreign patents for the design of an air treatment system.

A native of Aurora, MN, John Smuk attended St. Thomas College in St. Paul for two years prior to transferring to Michigan Tech to play football and complete his B.S. degree with honors in Chemical Engineering. He was initiated into the Phi Lambda Upsilon honorary chemical engineering and Sigma Xi. John passed away on April 2, 2022, at the age of 90.

Philip Watters received a B.S. in chemical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969 and then joined the Exxon Chemical Company. During his years at Exxon, Philip earned an MBA from the University of Houston in 1972. Philip has spent his career working on various aspects of the business in the field of petrochemical and energy industry. In 1986, he joined Resource Planning Consultants first as Vice-President and then as President. Philip joined Rimkus Consulting Group in 1989 and served as Senior Vice President for 30 years.

View the Photo Gallery


CITGO CEO Carlos Jordá Among Six Alumni Honored by Michigan Tech

“I was honored to receive this recognition from my alma mater, Michigan Tech. My background in chemical engineering has proven highly valuable throughout my career in the international oil and gas industry, and I’m proud to join the academy alongside such a distinguished group of fellow inductees.”

Carlos Jordá, CITGO CEO

ChE Convocation 2023 Awards Announced

These students, faculty and staff were presented awards on Friday (April 14) at the Department of Chemical Engineering (ChE) Convocation held in the MUB Alumni Lounge.

Bryan Glover, president and CEO of Honeywell UOP—the leading provider of technologies for the global energy and petrochemicals industries—was our keynote speaker. Glover graduated from Michigan Tech in 1986 with a BS in Chemical Engineering and he earned an MBA from the University of Chicago in 2009. In his 36 years with UOP, Glover has held positions across the company, including R&D, technical services and business management.

Congratulations to all!

Chair’s Award for Outstanding Chemical Engineering Senior

This award recognizes a graduating ChE senior for their academic achievement, experiential learning activities and community engagement. This award consists of a certificate and monetary award in the amount of $1,000.

Recipient: Brooke Bates

Excellence in Communication Award

This award acknowledges the critical role that effective communication plays in successful leadership and recognizes a graduating ChE senior for their effective use of communication of the highest standard.

Recipient: Zach Geiger

Professional Ethics Award

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 Tech.

Recipient: Sheridan Waldack

Prevent Accidents With Safety (PAWS) Award

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 PAWS program provides a framework to develop the necessary safety culture within the student community.

Recipients: Lauryn Elsholz, Nicholas Henderson, Emerson Ross, and Nicholas Scott

Dow Chemical Marriott W. Bredekamp Award

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 Marriott W. Bredekamp.

Recipients: Brooke Bates, Michael Durbin, Lydia Jackels, and Nick Schiavo

Three students holding awards and a faculty member.
L-R: Brook Bates, Lydia Jackels, and Michael Durbin with Kurt Rickard.

Senior Design Team Awards

John Patton, as chair and faculty member, initiated much of today’s design course content in ChE. 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 CM 4861 that created the best plant design and recommendation for Fictitious Chemical Company. It is given in recognition of the engineering design and creativity, safety and environmental considerations, technical communication skills, and teamwork in the capstone design project.

Finalist Teams

Third Place ($400): Amelia Kramer, Tailyn Klepsa-Orrey, TJ Stachowski, and Steven Markert

Runner-Up ($600): Zach Geiger, Andy Ward, Jordan Rathke, and Kyle Hooper

Winner ($1,000): Caleb Diekema, Josiah Diekema, Riley Smith, and Kade Wirth

Two students holding awards standing on either side of a faculty member.
L-R: Caleb Diekema, Jon Herlevich, Jr., and Riley Smith.

Davis W. Hubbard Outstanding Junior Award

The eligible candidate for this award has completed all their junior-level core chemical engineering courses. Selection is based on GPA for coursework done at Michigan Tech, research engagement and internship/co-op work experience. The award consists of a certificate and monetary award in the amount of $1,000.

Recipient: Mikayla Marshalek

Student with award standing with a faculty member.
L-R: Mikayla Marshalek with Kyle Griffin.

Outstanding Sophomore Award

This award recognizes an outstanding sophomore in chemical engineering who has demonstrated exemplary academic performance in coursework and exhibited excellence in related academic enrichment activities such as research, internship/co-op work experience and Enterprise Program.

Recipient: Margaret Roelant

Student with award standing next to a faculty member.
L-R: Margaret Roeland with Kyle Griffin.

Outstanding New Student Award

This award recognizes an outstanding new student in chemical engineering who has demonstrated exemplary academic performance in coursework and exhibited excellence in related academic enrichment activities such as research, internship/co-op work experience and Enterprise Program.

Recipient: James Hays

Student with award standing next to a faculty member.
L-R: James Hays with Tim Eisele.

Leadership Awards


AIChENathan Summers

CMLCMichael Durbin

CPMJames Staley

OXENathan Summers

SABRiley Smith

AEELibby Umlor

Green Campus: Ray Buenzli

Finally, ChE students voted on these categories to honor our outstanding department employees!

  • Teacher of the Year: Kyle Griffin
  • Research Mentor of the Year: Timothy Eisele
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year: John Szczap
  • Undergraduate Grader of the Year (tie): Michael Johnson and Riley Smith
  • Staff Making a Difference: Katie Torrey
  • Peer Mentor and Coach of the Year: Riley Smith
Student standing next to a faculty member with an award.
L-R: Student presenting an award to Tim Eisele.
Student standing next to a faculty member with an award.
L-R: Kyle Griffin accepting an award from a student.

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.