Category: Research

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.

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.

Engineering Research Initiation NSF Grant for Yixin Liu

Yixin Liu
Yixin Liu

Assistant Professor Yixin Liu has has been awarded an Engineering Research Initiation (ERI) NSF grant – “In-Situ Fabrication of Dual-Template Imprinted Nanocomposites for Simultaneous Detection of Glucose and Cortisol.” The total award for this two-year project is $199,972.


People with diabetes are 2-3 times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes. Meanwhile, depressive or anxiety symptoms, often associated with elevated cortisol (the “stress hormone”), can lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Monitoring both glucose and cortisol levels regularly in a cost-effective and effortless way is highly desired to manage diabetes and stress, and prevent prediabetes from progressing to full-blown T2D.

This project aims to develop an enzyme-free and antibody-free electrochemical sensor to simultaneously detect glucose and cortisol coupled with machine learning techniques.

The knowledge gained from this research will lead to low-cost biosensing devices and manufacturing processes.

Read more at the National Science Foundation.

EAB Poster Session Awardees

EAB Poster Session Awards announced

Congrats to these students for their posters that were presented to the judges and EAB members on October 22nd in these categories:

  • Undergrad Research
    • 1st, Lauren Spahn/Raisa Carmen Andeme Ela, advisor Rebecca Ong
    • 2nd place, Ethan Burghardt/Seth Kriz, advisor Caryn Heldt 
  • Student Organization
    • 1st, ChemE Car, Sarah Foyer/Emily Leverance,/Axel Valeri, advisor Jeana Collins
    •  2nd place, CPM: Commercial Keg Cleaner, Autumn Cole/Mike Johnson/Cael Hansen/ James Staley/Frank Bruck, advisor Tony Rogers
  • Graduate Research
    • 1st Natalie Nold/Seth Kriz/ Sheridan Waldack/ Alexis Pohkrel/ Pratik Joshi, advisor Caryn Heldt
    • 2nd place, Tinuade Folayan, advisor Lei Pan

#mtuchemeng #mturesearch

ACS Student Research Symposium Awards

Graduate students Seth Kriz and Natalie Nold from Dr. Caryn Heldt’s lab placed third at the ACS Student Research Symposium that was held in Marquette, MI on October 23rd. Ethan Burghardt who is doing research in the Heldt Lab was also awarded 2nd place in the Undergraduate Award Session; Ethan is majoring in Chemistry. Congratulations to all!

The symposium provided a venue for students to present their research in chemistry, chemical engineering, and related fields. This symposium will be an excellent opportunity for students, faculty, and the community at large to learn about the interesting chemistry and related research being conducted in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The event was sponsored by the Upper Peninsula Section of the American Chemical Society

#mtuchemeng #mturesearch

Lauren Spahn to Present at AIChE Annual Meeting

Undergraduate chemical engineering student Lauren Spahn’s abstract was accepted for presentation at the 2021 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Undergraduate Student Poster Session. 

Spahn’s abstract, titled “Optimization of Lignin Precipitation with Functional Group Control for Use in Bio-Based Polyurethane Foams,” will be part of the Materials Engineering and Sciences session on Monday (Nov. 8) during the 2021 AIChE Annual Meeting, which is being held in Boston Nov. 7-11 and virtually from Nov. 15-19.

The AIChE Annual Meeting is the forum for ChEs interested in innovation and professional growth. Experts will cover wide range of topics relevant to cutting-edge research, new technologies, and emerging areas in the field. This year’s topic is “Building the Bridge in 21st Century Education.”

Optimization of Lignin Precipitation with Functional Group Control for Use in Bio-Based Polyurethane Foams
AIChE Undergraduate Student Poster Competition


By Chemical Engineering.

Seth A. Kriz Presents Poster at 2021 Alumni Reunion

The Michigan Tech Graduate Student Government (GSG) organized a poster presentation at the 2021 Alumni Reunion in the Rozsa Center on August 6. Presentations are also posted virtually. Among the presenters was Seth A. Kriz, a PhD Student in Chemical Engineering.

Seth A. Kriz
Seth A. Kriz

Seth A. Kriz

Area of Focus

Bioseparations, Vaccine Manufacturing


Purifying viral vaccines by two-phase aqueous extraction

Project Summary

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates as many as 650,000 people die annually from the seasonal influenza virus. Viral vaccines are an effective tool to combat this enormous problem, but current manufacturing purification methods suffer from high costs and yields of less than 30%. A switch from batch to fully continuous processing, which is acknowledged by the FDA to increase capacity and product consistency, is necessary to meet demand. Aqueous two-phase systems (ATPS) constructed of inexpensive, environmentally-friendly polymers and salts are an ideal method to replace traditional chromatography steps that rely on costly resins and operate discontinuously. Previously, we achieved over 80% recovery of two model viral products in the polymer phase of ATPS with high host cell protein and DNA removal. However, the purified viral product is too viscous for further polishing by traditional filtration methods. Thus, a polymer removal step is required. Here we developed a second stage of ATPS to back-extract the virus from the polymer-rich primary product into a gentle salt solution ready for polishing. Preliminary results demonstrate that back-extraction completes a fully continuous viral particle extraction process using ATPS.

Play Purifying viral vaccines by two-phase aqueous extraction – Seth Kirz video
Preview image for Purifying viral vaccines by two-phase aqueous extraction - Seth Kirz video

Purifying viral vaccines by two-phase aqueous extraction – Seth Kirz