Dear Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff, and Friends,

Greetings from the Department of Chemical Engineering at UIC!

The spirit of the city of Chicago truly emerges on a cold, snowy day, when people of all kinds come together in a diverse range of daily activities despite anything the weather may throw at them. This winter, I witnessed again this very spirit, and it gave me a renewed appreciation of the energetic, persevering Chicago culture that is deeply infused into our department.

As we move through the spring semester, I would like to share some warming news from the past year and forecast the excitement ahead. The department continues its forward momentum with inspiring success stories, continual growth (including the addition of two skilled staff members), and new initiatives led by students, staff, and faculty. 

This year, the department reached some important milestones. Our ranking hit 64, representing a 10-point increase in just three years. We increased our research expenditures by 12 percent, funding projects in water treatment, drug delivery, microbial fuel cells, nanoprocessing, polymer technology, 2D nanomaterials, nanopore membranes, biomedical devices, and semiconductor processing.  
One of our star faculty members, Brian Chaplin, received tenure and was promoted to associate professor. Dr. Chaplin’s strong research agenda in reactive electrochemical membranes continues to attract funding, the most recent being a $750,000 SERDP grant. Three faculty members received their first research grants: funding from the National Science Foundation for Vivek Sharma and Meenesh Singh, and funding from Diamerond for Sanjay Behura. Dr. Behura is one of two faculty members who were made permanent, along with Betul Bilgin. Congratulations! Finally, research from ChE was published in several high-impact journals and featured in various popular news portals.  
In graduate-student news, Deisy Arrington won an NSF-GROW award to work on graphene printing in France, and Jelena Dinic won the Frank J. Padden Jr. Award from the American Physical Society for her work on complex fluids. Three other PhD students won the Provost’s Graduate Research Award from the UIC Graduate College, and one won the University fellowship, thanks to support from our director of graduate studies, Gang Cheng. 

UIC Chemical Engineering remains committed to student success. We have admirable records in both academic performance and post-graduation placement, while we continually strive to improve student outcomes and the student experience. This year, for example, Dr. Bilgin added multiple project options to our senior design course and strengthened the role played by mentors from industry, leading to great success at the annual Engineering EXPO. Student projects covered topics such as the Mars Rover refueling plant; stem-cell growth and therapy; liquefaction; methanol, styrene, and toluene production; CO2 capture; conversion of CO2 to clean fuel, and more. Our process simulation and controls courses now benefit from real-world examples from industry due to the influence of Clinical Associate Professor Michael Caracotsios, a retired engineer from Honeywell UOP and an expert in the field. Said Al-Hallaj led the effort to launch a new course titled Entrepreneurship in Chemical Engineering. Thanks to leadership from Alan Zdunek, director of undergraduate studies, and support from the Engineering Career Center, the department promoted interaction among students, alumni, and industry via our annual Chemical Engineering Industry Day and the ChE Alumni Social. Industry Day brings ChE’s alumni and friends from the professional world to meet with our students and advise them on how to prepare for career opportunities. The Alumni Social, held in the spring, allows students to learn from the experiences of those who came before them at UIC. Students continue to succeed in securing positions in academia and industry, as well as graduate admission at UIC and other high-quality universities. I encourage alumni who are interested in either of these events to contact us.

Our student chapter of AIChE has been active in new and ongoing activities under the leadership of president Ebin Joseph and his team. The group’s signature project, under the mentorship of Dr. Singh, is the Chem-E-Car. It is benefiting this year from new innovative, 3D-printed designs and from the work of its three inaugural student fellows: James Fell, Amanda Ly, and Fatima Saeed. Ebin has initiated projects to provide students with more hands-on engineering experience in fusion reactor and fuel cell design. 

Meanwhile, the department continues to run valuable student programming such as chemical plant visits, student-oriented seminars, design-expo presentations, and conference visits. We have started a monthly Chem-E-Club event to enable casual interactions between faculty and students, including those who come from China through an exchange program that was initiated a couple of years ago. Other activities conducted this year include Curriculum Day, AIChE receptions for alumni and students, graduate research symposiums, and the Chem-E-Forum. 

The department’s main office welcomed Eduardo Martinez this year as our new student and curriculum advisor and Sarai Chavez as our office support specialist. We are excited to have them as a part of the ChE family. This year, Jan Segun won the Staff Excellence Award in recognition of his continued efforts to enhance the quality of ChE’s laboratories and computational resources. Congrats, Jan! Roberto Rodriguez is busy balancing our ledgers to ensure that we keep growing financially; he is handling the highest volume of proposals, grant awards, and student-worker paychecks that the department has ever seen. We look forward to an excellent fiscal year for our $4-million operation. 

For more information, I invite you to explore the links below: 
Website: www.che.uic.edu
Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/che_uic/
Twitter handle:  https://twitter.com/UIC_ChE (Also search #CHEUIC)
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/UICChemicalEngineering/
Department video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56v2TcC9JgA
New Building: Chemical engineering’s new building to be ready in 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmHyKU6KT90
Chicago Cityscape https://vimeo.com/52302939 
ChE Education Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56v2TcC9JgA 

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Hope you all have a wonderful winter season ahead!
Warmly,
Vikas

PS: Learn more about our open faculty position: https://jobs.uic.edu/job-board/job-details?jobID=104847