Ohio State AIChE Chapter hosts 2021 North Central Regional Conference

Bryce Pember
Bryce Pember, 2021 AIChE Regional Conference Chair

Ohio State students who have participated in an AIChE Regional Conference know how fun and exciting it can be, but until this spring, they've never had a chance to participate from their home campus. That changed on April 16-17, when the Ohio State AIChE Student Chapter hosted the 2021 AIChE North Central Regional Conference right here in Columbus.

Nearly 200 students from our department and 28 other schools in the North Central Region signed up to participate in a wide range of activities, and even though some of those were virtual, it was still a tremendously fun, well-orchestrated feat resulting from intense planning, most of which was done in less than a single semester due to last-minute rule changes!

"We were glad to step up to host the conference, even though we didn’t get to do it in person like we’d originally planned," said AIChE President Matt Greenwaldt. "We were able to pull it off really well under the circumstances, building the conference infrastructure and having conference planning meetings online. It was an incredible effort on the part of the planning team, led by Bryce Pember, and I'm very proud of him and the team for adapting so well to the change in circumstances."

Department Chair and University Distinguished Professor Umit Ozkan readily agreed. “It was a fantastic event. Our students did a phenomenal job!" she said.

Bhavesh (Bob) V. Patel, /88
Bob Patel '88

To start things off, attendees were treated to an inspiring keynote by Bob Patel (BS '88), who shared how he ultimately became CEO of LyondellBasell, one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world. This was a great story for students to hear, especially since it was from an alumnus of their own department.

Patel also gave students tips on how to improve as a professional in the industry, and in his closing keynote, he gave a fascinating overview of the sustainability solutions that LyondellBasell is working on to improve the science behind, and awareness of, plastics circularity.

Other featured events included the traditional ChemE Car and Poster Competitions; games like ChemE Jeopardy; and workshops on professional development. Further, attendees obtained valuable advice from representatives in the food industry, materials science and catalysis, pharmaceuticals, petroleum engineering, plastics and sustainability. Twenty-five judges and moderators, including Ohio State CBE faculty and alumni business owners, also participated.

To increase the sense of immediacy and camaraderie, Zoom was used in creative ways to host ice-breaker coffee socials and networking "happy hours," with surprisingly effective results. 

Even the ChemE Car Competition was held by Zoom. Participants introduced themselves and then the teams ran their cars together with the rest of their school teams, livestreaming their respective car runs at their own schools in two rounds. First Place: Cranberry Tractor, Purdue; Second Place: The H Train, Trine University; Third Place: Zinc-asaurus Rex, University of Toledo; Fourth Place, The Rhino, University of Cincinnati; Fifth Place: Parking Garage, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Below: Members of the 2021 AIChE North Central Regional Conference Planning Committee. Not pictured: Tyler Dorcon, Jack Thomas and Jessica Whitman.
Matt Greenwaldt
Matthew Greenwaldt, AIChE President
Maria Belicak
Maria Belicak
Michael Camburn
Michael Camburn
Ben Carpenter
Ben Carpenter
Garzanich, Judy
Judy Garzanich
Abby Hallock
Abby Hallock
Quent Hartt
Quent Hartt
Lauren Kinsey
Lauren Kinsey
Mario Lucrezi
Mario Lucrezi
Zain Mohammad
Zane Mohammad
Antarra Rath
Antara Rath
Lilly Vagedes
Lilly Vagedes

The Chem-E-Car Poster Competition was also well-attended. Prior to the event, the group's Regional Safety Coordinators provided a final safety inspection, followed by ChemE Car teams' video poster presentations, Q&A and judging.  First Place: Zinc-asaurus Rex, University of Toledo; Second Place: Cranberry Tractor, Purdue; Third Place: Zig Zag, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

ChemE Jeopardy proved to be another popular activity. Using questions from common chemical engineering undergraduate curricula, teams of up to four members competed. First Place: Notre Dame; Second Place: Western Michigan University; Third Place: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

For the Technical Presentation (former Student Paper Competition), students focused on recent advances in some branch of chemical engineering, original research, or plant design. First Place: Brian Carrick, University of MN-Twin Cities; Second Place: Katie Tyrrell, Wayne State University; Third Place: Kayla Chapman, University of Toledo.  Click here to view the abstracts of the students presenting at this competition!

​Poster Competition: Students presented their findings on chemical engineering principles such as sustainability/environment, catalysis and reaction engineering, computing and process control, pharmaceuticals, bioengineering, fuels, petrochemicals, energy, materials, and separations. This was a great opportunity for students to meet faculty from a variety of chemical engineering U.S. graduate programs as they toured and judged the posters. First Place: Spencer Schmidt, Case Western; Wesam Hatem, University of Toledo; Third Place: Sarah Tanck, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

A Career Fair offered breakout rooms where students could submit their resumes ahead of time and talk to recruiters from companies and institutions.

​The Grad School Panel featured Q&A with graduate students and program coordinators from various universities and engineering disciplines, followed by breakout rooms with specific topics such as connecting with faculty, funding, thesis selection, and offer letters. 


In addition to the keynote speaker, Bob Patel, we were excited to be able to host a standout group of speakers, many of whom are alumni of the department! Several of our workshop hosts and guests contributed financially to the conference. An extra thank-you to Hexion, Marathon, Alterra Energy, Lincoln Electric, and pH Matter!

Matter, Paul, in fuel cell lab-horizontal
Dr. Paul Matter

​Company Spotlight: Paul Matter (BS '01, PhD '06), founder of Columbus-based pH Matter (a materials company specializing in catalysts and nanoparticles for advanced energy storage and aerospace applications), talked about what it's like to create a start-up, what the fuel cell industry is like, and where his company fits within that industry. (Read more about Dr. Matter and his technology that will be used on the moon!)

​Refining 101: Marathon Petroleum Corporation provided a discussion about the basics of petroleum refining, how a typical refinery works, and the products a refinery makes.

​Chapter Mentorship: Ohio State's AIChE Chapter President Matthew Greenwaldt led a top-to-bottom run-through and discussion on how to start, effectively operate, and improve a chapter mentorship program. He also discussed how Ohio State currently runs its program and how it hopes to improve for the future. 

Integrating Chemical Engineering with Business: Dow Chemical Company Representative Matthew Rees (BS '17) offered a session on how to leverage engineering skills in the business world. 

​Solving Plastic Pollution:  Representatives from Alterra Energy, a company that transforms waste plastic into usable products, gave a presentation on how the company reduces plastic waste and provided an employment overview for prospective chemical engineers.

​Process Safety: Process Improvement Institute's Jeff Thomas (BS '76) discussed the critical role of safety in the workplace and how students can develop safety skills that recruiters like to see.

Leonore Witchey-Lakshmanan smiling
Dr. Leonore Witchey-Lakshmanan

A Future in Pharmaceuticals: Pharmaceutical consultant Leonore Witchey-Lakshmanan (BS '83, MS '84), spoke about the benefits of working in the pharmaceutical industry and how to guide one's education in that direction.

Humanitarian Engineering: ​Miami University professor Catherine Almquist discussed how engineers can implement local and global change through environmental, humanitarian, and sustainable engineering.

​Financial Responsibility and WellnessAndrew Maxson (PhD '17) provided insight on how to manage one's finances and plan for a future after college.

Christina Sistrunk
Christina Sistrunk

Pathway to Management: Aera Energy LLC President and CEO Christina Sistrunk (BS '82) shared her thoughts and experiences on how engineers can move into upper management. 

​Working in Food Industry: Smucker's VP of Research & Development Jim Trout (BS '92) spoke about the benefits of working in the food and beverage industry and how to move in that direction.

How to Host a Networking Night: Ohio State's AIChE External Vice President Ben Carpenter and former AIChE Professional Development Coordinator Anjali Tewari outlined the steps and tools on how a chapter can host both virtual and in-person networking events to obtain large turnouts and positive reviews.

The event concluded with an Awards Banquet, raffle, and the opportunity for attendees to purchase conference apparel or gift cards. 

Category: Undergraduate
Tag: alumni