A Letter from the Acting Department Chair

Dr. Christi Luks
Dr. Christi Patton Luks

Dear Alumni, Friends, and Colleagues:

I would like to thank each of you for your support in this challenging time and would like to share with you some of the adjustments the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering is making. The 2019-20 academic year has been an excellent year so far. The S&T Chem-E-Car team won 2nd place in the 2019 AIChE competition. Our faculty have been busy this year. A few highlights:

  • In addition to serving as the Interim Chair this past year, Dr. Joseph Smith is the Secretary of the AIChE Board of Directors. He was also awarded the 2019 Outstanding Alumnus for Chemical Engineering at Brigham Young University where he gave a seminar titled “My Last Lecture: Lessons Learned.”
  • Dr. Ali Rownaghi and Dr. Peter Ryan have been working with our graduate teaching assistants to develop new experiments for the undergraduate labs on process control, pump sizing, enzyme kinetics, and algae growth. They have the absorption column up and running.
  • Dr. Fateme Rezaei gave an invited talk at FOA14 in Australia. She has also given departmental seminars at University of Arkansas, University of Toledo, and Southern Illinois University. She also became a member of the editorial board for Frontiers in Energy Research and Journal of CO2 Utilization.
  • Dr. Xinhua Liang has submitted two new patents, Dr. Ali Rownaghi has submitted two new patents, and Dr. Fateme Rezaei has submitted one new patent.
  • Associate Dean of Research Angela Lueking continued to spearhead interdisciplinary research initiatives across campus, culminating in a successful NSF planning grant for an Engineering Research Center, an NSF-sponsored national workshop on Critical Minerals to be held in Rolla in 2020, and an Educational Partnership Agreement with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
  • Dr. Christi Luks serves on the American Society for Engineering Education Board of Directors as the chair of a professional interest council representing 11 engineering disciplines.
  • Dr. Sutapa Barua is making news for her project to design a pocket-sized water filter.
  • Dr. Muthanna Al-Dahhan continues his impressive research program, earning him international recognition. He was awarded the 2019 Washington University EECE Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award and has been nominated for the 2020 Kuwait Prize from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences.
  • Dr. Monday Okoronkwo is the Director of the Sustainable Materials Lab at S&T and is the lead PI on an NSF grant of $500,000.
  • Dr. Xinhua Liang has been working on six projects funded by DOE and NSF. He won the Research Exergy Award and the Faculty Research Awards in 2019.
  • Dr. Douglas Ludlow continues as the Director of the S&T Advising Center. This year he presented a paper at the NACADA conference titled “A metamorphosis from faculty to professional advisors in the first-year advising experience” about the transition from Freshman Engineering to S&T Advising Center with six professional advisors.

In mid-March we were asked to switch our classes to online teaching. I am so proud of our faculty. We had 100% of our classes converted to this new format on Day 1 of the new policy, even the unit ops lab courses! Sure, there were a few hiccups, but the students were patient with us and helped us identify best practices. Our department has had an incredibly smooth transition, frankly. I believe that part of that credit can be attributed to the resilience of our remarkable students.

I have always known that the quality of our students is among the best in the nation, but I have also been impressed by the selflessness of so many. Sara Robinson has used her personal 3D printer to produce parts for masks for hospitals. Wes Hartzell has been running the water jet at the Student Design & Experiential Learning Center for the production of these masks. I am certain that there are others who are contributing to the efforts to battle COVID-19 that I am unaware of. All of our graduate and undergraduate students have cooperated with the social distancing rules throughout this period despite the personal hardship this may cause. Although it may feel like you are doing nothing, in reality each of you are doing your part to help our ChE family.

Finally, I would like to thank our past Chair, Dr. Muthanna Al-Dahhan, for his 10 years of service to the department and Dr. Joseph Smith for his service this past year as Interim Department Chair. I am filling this position briefly as we anticipate hiring a new Chair for the 2020-21 academic year. My goal is to deliver a healthy department to this individual in August.

Stay Healthy!

Dr. Christi Patton Luks