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Chemical Engineering Department Provides Updates

December 19, 2017
Man in lab tests materials
The Department of Chemical Engineering has many exciting projects under way to benefit students.

In recent months, the University of Wyoming’s Department of Chemical Engineering has been a hub of activity. Department Head Vladimir Alvarado and the staff and faculty have been hard at work to bring innovative concepts to the forefront for department students. Here’s a quick look at some of what’s going on.

MSE Program
In early 2017, the department became the official lead for the UW Materials Science & Engineering program. This program draws together experts from within the department and other disciplines, including physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and geology to create a Center of Excellence for studies of solid materials. The program will formalize instruction for solid state sciences, promote interdisciplinary research between UW collaborators, interface with other institutions for advanced studies, and develop products to promote the Wyoming economy.

New Lab Space
The department successfully secured space for a teaching and research bioengineering lab, supported by the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Students will greatly benefit from elective courses that will provide active learning and hands-on opportunities. Research in this area continues to thrive and large proposals to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and other agencies are underway.

Environmental Engineering
A partnership with the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering has led to a revamp of the Environmental Engineering master’s program. Environmental engineering has evolved into an interdisciplinary field that still focuses on the environment, but now does so within the framework of sustainability. It attracts engineers from many fields, but because of the broad scope of knowledge required, undergraduate degrees solely in environmental engineering remain rare. Thus, a bachelor's in chemical engineering provides an excellent background for environmental engineering. At UW, chemical engineering undergraduates may complete their technical requirements with a concentration in environmental engineering and are well prepared to work in the field.

Carbon Engineering and Science Initiative
Funded over two years by the Wyoming Legislature, the Carbon Engineering and Science Initiative, began in July 2016, with the objective of understanding the feasibility of using Wyoming coal as a feedstock to make advanced materials and performance chemical products. The initiative is currently funding 15 projects focusing upon low-temperature conversion processes using solvent extraction and low-temperature thermal approaches and investigating product manufacturing opportunities. A significant contribution to carbon engineering embraces faculty, researchers and students within chemical engineering. There is an emphasis on understanding the fundamental science, characterization of the deliberate decomposition of coal, and the molecular chemistry of intermediate and derivative coal products.

Improved Oil Recovery Laboratory
Alvarado’s research group has a new space in UW’s recently opened High Bay Research Facility, the Improved Oil Recovery Laboratory. The high-bay space will be used to test larger-scale flow experiments that are not possible in traditional lab space. For instance, flow circuits for emulsions, foams and polymeric solutions will be developed, and cooperation with colleagues will allow testing of pilot-scale systems. The new spaces make it possible to process large volumes of fluids and rock under better preservation conditions. This is essential to conduct delicate experiments that are highly dependent upon compositional control.

He said it
“Our faculty and staff remain dedicated to our primary functions, which means keeping student success as our utmost priority,” Alvarado says. “More is to come and I foresee many wonderful surprises in the immediate future from efforts from our dedicated staff and faculty. Our students will continue to enjoy an ever-improved program and an unforgettable educational opportunity.”

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