Chemical engineering Research for Undergraduates students earn poster awards

Jamie Oberdick
December 13, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students from the Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program earned two awards at the 2019 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Undergraduate Student Poster Competition. The competition was held Nov. 11 in Orlando, Florida, and was part of the 2019 AIChE Student Conference.  

The REU program runs each year from late May through early August. It is open to non-Penn State undergraduate students enrolled at United States institutions in chemical engineering, bioengineering, biology, chemistry, materials science, physics and related majors. 

“The REU program aims to provide hands-on research experiences in the area of biomolecular materials to a diverse and talented group of undergraduate students,” said Esther Gomez, associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering and REU program director. “This provides students with the basic skills and motivations needed to achieve future success in chemical engineering graduate programs and research careers. They engage in a wide range of chemical engineering research projects that integrate biology and materials science.”

2019 REU participant Bryan Clampitt, a biomedical engineering student at the University of South Florida, won second place in the Materials Engineering and Sciences Division for his poster titled, “Developing Small Organic Molecule Sensors from Single Stranded DNA Aptamers.” Clampitt worked with Howard Salis, associate professor of biological engineering and chemical engineering at Penn State, on this research.

“We designed chemical sensors made from single-stranded DNA,” Clampitt said. “These sensors, when combined with the molecule of interest, react with proteins in solution and produce a measurable change in length. This method has notable cost, accessibility and time benefits over current common detection methods of small organic molecules.”

2019 REU participant Hansel Montalvo Castro, a chemical engineering student at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, won third place in the Catalysis and Reaction Engineering Division for his poster titled, “Understanding Cation Effects in Hydrogen Evolution Reaction on Cu(100) Surfaces.” Hansel worked with Michael Janik, Penn State professor of chemical engineering, on this research.

Hansel’s research involved the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide, a process using electricity to convert carbon dioxide emissions to organic feedstocks such as methanol, ethylene and methane for energy use. 

"Given that more than 80% of the global energy needs are supplied by burning fossil fuels, the electroreduction of carbon dioxide into fuels represents an attractive alternative for energy production,” Hansel said. “This is especially true since the process involves both the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and the usage of these molecules to produce high-value chemicals.”

For more information about the REU program, visit the REU program website.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 13, 2019