Two Penn State seniors honored by American Institute of Chemical Engineers

May 04, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State chemical engineering seniors Emelia Conte and Natalie Morrissey, both Schreyer Scholars, recently received the 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Outstanding Senior Award.

The award, granted by the Central Pennsylvania Local Section of AIChE, recognizes a chemical engineering senior who has had outstanding scholastic, leadership and service achievements. This year is the first time in recent history in which there are two recipients.

“These two students stood out among many accomplished students as having excellent achievements in each category,” said Michael Janik, professor of chemical engineering, who led the selection process for the award. “We are glad we could present two award winners this year, given that we had the largest graduating class we’ve ever had from the department in recent memory.”

Morrissey excelled in undergraduate research, working with Darrell Velegol, distinguished professor of chemical engineering, in his lab, where she greatly advanced the philosophy for the research group’s work in Chemical Game Theory.

“She worked for four full semesters on this effort, and was outstanding at calculations, creative ideas, writing and finding literature and ideas,” said Velegol.

Morrissey served in leadership positions in the Penn State student chapter of AIChE, most recently as Community Outreach Chair, in which she organized the chapter’s participation at community science events. Previously, she served as the chapter’s Junior Class Representative and presented research at the AIChE National Student Conference in San Francisco.

During her time at Penn State, Morrissey was a mentor and teacher to fellow students. She served as a mentor for Schreyer Honors College Orientation, an instructional aid for the Physics of Community class, and a Guided Study Group Leader for organic chemistry, in which she received an Outstanding Guided Study Group Leader Award for her outstanding contributions to the program. In her junior year, she was awarded a NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Undergraduate Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium for her academic success and commitment to the advancement of STEM education. Other awards and scholarships include the Schreyer Honors College Academic Excellence Scholarship and the Penn State Engineering Scholarship and Provost Award.

With her strong abilities in calculations, Morrissey also wrote an editorial on taxing shale gas for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Natalie is very smart, hardworking, personable, and has high energy,” said Velegol. “She is among the top few undergraduates I’ve seen in the Department of Chemical Engineering in my 18 years at Penn State.”

Starting in fall 2018, Morrissey will be pursuing a juris doctor degree at Harvard Law School, where she hopes to integrate her background in engineering with her interest in communication to pursue a career as a patent attorney.

“I was very excited and grateful to hear I received the award,” said Morrissey. “I have been very thankful for the many opportunities I've been offered as a student in the chemical engineering department, and I was really happy that I could be involved.”

As an undergraduate researcher, Emelia Conte has two second author papers — one in the Journal of Materials Chemistry and one in Energy and Environmental Science — and will be on two other papers from her research groups.

“Emelia is a well-rounded student that has performed very well academically while balancing her interests in research and outreach,” said Manish Kumar, associate professor of chemical engineering, biomedical engineering and civil and environmental engineering. “She has also taken a large number of courses outside of the credit requirement and is obtaining a minor in biomedical engineering.” 

She held many leadership and service positions, including president of the Newman Catholic Student Association, volunteer at the Discovery Space Children’s Science Museum, a Penn State Undergraduate Speaking Center Mentor, Schreyer Honors College Orientation Mentor, and Women in Engineering Program Study Group Facilitator.

In addition, Conte received several awards and grants, including the 2017 Energy and Environmental Science HOT articles, which highlights the hottest work published in Energy and Environmental Science, Department of Chemical Engineering Bio Fellowship, NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Undergraduate Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation Special Scholar Award from the PPG Foundation.

“She is great person to be around and a joy to work with,” Kumar said. “She is a great representation of our program, very accomplished but humble, professional and approachable.” 

After graduation, Conte will be employed by Ecolab in its Leadership Development Program. Her first rotation will be as a project engineer in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“I was overjoyed to have received this award! Throughout my undergraduate career, I've always set high goals for myself both academically and in terms of extracurricular activities,” said Conte. “I am mostly just glad that I have been able to participate in leadership and outreach in so many ways during my time at Penn State.”

Last Updated May 04, 2018