The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) has awarded Virginia Tech chemical engineering students four top awards in global competitions. Students and faculty will be honored at the 2019 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, on Nov. 10-15.

In AIChE’s student design competition, Virginia Tech chemical engineering students are the only team to capture two awards by developing a creative solution solution that included out-of-the-box product purification schemes that cut down the investment and operating costs of the base-case design. The students worked on this problem over the previous academic year in their capstone design course, advised by Y. A. Liu, Alumni Distinguished Professor and Frank C. Vilbrandt Endowed Professor.

The team of chemical engineering seniors from the Class of 2019, Naomi Butler-Abisrror, Linh Pham, and Aditya Ponukumati, designed the solution for the problem of “Manufacturing Facility for a Biopharmaceutical: Monoclonal Antibody." Their design efforts and solutions resulted in top prizes, The William Cunningham Award for Best Overall Design and The Jack Wehman Design Award for Best Applications of the Principles of Chemical Process Safety.

Butler-Abisrror is currently a technical specialist at Merck & Co. Inc., Elkton, Virginia; Pham is now a process engineer with AdvanSix, Chester, Virginia; and Ponukumati is presently a doctoral student in chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Virginia Tech student chapter of AIChE has also been recognized as an Outstanding Student Chapter for 2018-19. This recognition is reserved for only 30 of the over 325 student chapters around the world. Among the activities recognized by the award are the development of student leadership abilities, academic mentoring of chemical engineering students, career forum for industrial employment and internship, success in the Chem-E car competition, and outreach to local high school students. 

The student chapter also successfully bid and won the opportunity to host the 2020 mid-Atlantic regional student conference to be hosted at Virginia Tech on April 24-25, 2020. 

Also, James Owens, senior majoring in chemical engineering, current student chapter president, and chair of the 2020 AIChE mid-Atlantic Regional Student Conference, was awarded the prestigious AIChE Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Scholarship that recognizes academic achievement and involvement in student chapter activities. 

The Virginia Tech chemical engineering Chem-E-Car team, winner of the top prize in the 2019 AIChE Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Conference, will compete in the national competition during the annual meeting in Orlando on Nov. 10.

— Written by Tina Russell