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Undergraduate chemical engineering students recognized for research, leadership

Academic excellence, leadership, community outreach, advising and mentoring, and research: CBE undergrads have it all!

This spring, undergraduates in the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering received a number of awards that recognize leadership, community outreach, support of education, and accomplishments in research.

American Institute of Chemists Award

Included in the awards was the Outstanding Undergraduate Award for graduating senior Thomas Porter from the American Chemists Foundation.

Thomas, whose co-advisors are Jessica Winter and Barbara Wyslouzil, also recently learned that he was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship – a highly competitive award that only goes to a handful of select students nationwide. This was in addition to being named both a Goldwater Scholar and Astronaut Scholar last year!


AIChE Central Ohio Chapter Awards

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Central Ohio Chapter, honored Margaret Vaillancourt with the Donald F. Othmer Sophomore Academic Excellence Award. Awardees are selected solely by grade point average – not insignificant when so many chemical engineering students excel in their studies! 

Margaret just finished her second year at Ohio State University. In addition to her studies, she serves on AIChE’s mentorship committee and participates in many of AIChE’s social and professional events. Further, she works in Professor Umit Ozkan's heterogeneous catalysis research laboratory and plans to complete a research thesis. She recently received a College Of Engineering Summer Research Scholarship and had planned to spend the summer working on her own research project. For the time being, that program is on hold until she is able to return to the lab. After graduating from Ohio State, Margaret plans to attend graduate school with the goal of becoming a professor.


Ohio State’s AIChE Student Chapter President Josie Miller was selected for the AIChE Central Ohio Section Outstanding Student Award.

As president of AIChE, Josie led multiple social, informational, networking and charitable events on campus for the benefit of students and the community. In addition to the BuckeyeThon, the Columbus Marathon also included a large number of CBE students.

In addition, AIChE did K-12 outreach at GEMS and activities at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as career networking nights involving guest speakers from industry.  

Josie is looking forward to starting a job at Arkema after graduation.


AIChE Student Chapter Awards

Ohio State’s AIChE Student Chapter also has its own student-nominated awards. Nominations are gathered and reviewed by the AIChE Officers and the CBE Department Awards Committee makes the final selection. This year’s winners included:

Bryce PemberExemplary Service and Leadership Award.  Bryce has been coordinating the AIChE Regional Conference, which is expected to be held here in Columbus in 2021. With an understanding of how the event will propel the department into the national spotlight, Bryce has demonstrated significant commitment to planning the best event possible, already overcoming several obstacles that were thrown in his way.

In addition to these daunting responsibilities, Bryce balances his activities as a successful chemical engineering student and an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Palmer’s lab.


Christina JanesCommunity Outreach Award.  Christina is a TA and served as one of this year’s BuckeyeThon co-captains. As a TA, students found her to be greatly encouraging – “A great TA, and a good friend” – someone who doesn’t judge students that may not understand a particular problem at first. She is known for being a well-rounded individual who is understanding, gives great advice, and is highly approachable. As a BuckeyeThon co-captain she made announcements at the beginning of different class periods to encourage students to sign up. This led to a record number of people participating in the annual fundraising event (3x as many as last year). Several students have said the event was the most envigorating and enjoyable BuckeyThon to date—“an unforgettable experience.”


Adam BenwayOutstanding Support of Undergraduate Education Award.  Adam, a graduating senior, came to be known as “the guy there to help.” He welcomed questions from students even when it was past his scheduled office hours and hosted helpful review sessions before quizzes and exams. He advocated redoing homework solutions to make the process more clear to students, breaking down complicated concepts into manageable slices, finding that his helped him to learn the material better as well. Students found him to be very motivating and encouraging because he expressed a lot of confidence in them. “Adam is a great student and peer in the ChemE department and he is always there when you need him,” one student wrote. “He really helped me go from getting below the mean on the first exam, to well above on the final.”


CBE Department Awards

At the department level, four students were recognized for exceptional research efforts.

Josh Goetze (advisor: L.-S. Fan) received the CBE Undergraduate Award for Patents and Publications for excellence in research and publishing.  He has worked in Dr. Fan’s lab since the fall of 2018, working on iron oxide catalysts for methane partial oxidation to syngas. 

Josh has been very involved with ChemE Car, working as the pressure team lead when the team took first place at the AIChE Regional Competition last spring.

His internships have included working for pH Matter doing lithium ion battery research; at MATRIC doing process research; and at LyondellBasell at a polyethylene plant. Josh expects to gradute this August and plans to attend graduate school for industry materials research.


Students receiving the CBE Outstanding Undergraduate Student Research Award were:

Brian Wynne (advisor: Umit Ozkan).  Brian has been working with the Heterogeneous Catalysis Research Group on a project to convert methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, to carbon dioxide which can be captured through adsorption. He synthesizes and identifies catalysts for a packed bed reactor system, and will be writing his undergraduate thesis on these enhanced methane oxidation methods. He is interested in catalysis because of its importance and applications to many industries.

"Brian is a quick learner who mastered many laboratory skills after joining my group," Dr. Ozkan said. "He is a meticulous, focused, and very disciplined researcher who quickly became integral as part of group working on a challenging project."

While at Ohio State, Brian has also worked with the Kohler Group, the Radiological Instrument and Calibration Lab, and the Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics Lab on exploring low temperature plasma-catalytic ammonia synthesis. Further work experience includes assignments at Stanley Electric, Athenex, Arizona State University, and an upcoming SULI internship with Berkeley Lab on a compact multi-beam accelerator.

He is interested in pursuing graduate studies in the field of fusion energy, obtaining a doctorate in plasma physics or nuclear engineering.


Broderick Lewis (advisor: William Wang).  Broderick was primarily working with liquid crystal elastomers and was investigating the synthesis and characterization of responsive polymer-based nano-wire structured surfaces. 

The LCE nanowires can be used to create bio-mimetic responsive surfaces to tune adhesion or wetting properties. Broderick previously helped with research in the Castro group in the ISE department studying the mechanical and electrical properties of CNT nanopaper polyurethane composites. There are plans to publish the research once laboratories re-open and operations can resume.

Broderick has had two internships with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company working in Quality. This fall he will be attending Northwestern University to attain a PhD in Materials Science & Engineering.


Melanie Gross (advisor: L.-S. Fan).  Melanie, a member of the Class of 2020, is a passionate chemical engineering student. She worked with Dr. Fan’s group researching a high-pressure chemical looping system for hydrogen production from methane. Melanie is also a member of the Women in Engineering learning community, an undergraduate teaching assistant in CBE, and has worked with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion as an academic tutor. She worked at ExxonMobil for the past two summers and hopes to work in the energy industry upon graduation.