April 23, 2008

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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Eight engineering majors from Bucknell University were recognized at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Mid-Atlantic regional student conference held at Manhattan College recently.

An estimated 150 students participated in the conference from more than 15 schools in the Mid-Atlantic region, one of nine student regions in the nation.

Biomass fuels
Bucknell senior Derek Rice earned a third place finish in the Paper Competition for his research presentation on "Techniques to Improve the Use of Biomass Fuels used to Provide Heating to the Facilities at the Natchez Trace Greenhouses." 

Rice's research was conducted with R. Mark Bricka of the chemical engineering department at Mississippi State University as part of a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program there.

The research study consisted of locating and testing potential alternative fuel feeds for boilers used to heat a year-round greenhouse facility in Kosciusko, Miss., with the ultimate goal of reducing heating costs for the facility. The study also involved testing the use of waste ash from the boilers as a fertilizer for certain plants in the greenhouse.

"Derek received second place just last year in the same competition category, when Bucknell hosted the 2007 Mid-Atlantic regional conference," said Tim Raymond, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Bucknell and AIChE student chapter advisor.

Hydrogel interactions
Bucknell juniors Kim Hassett and Jeff Stein took third place in the Poster Competition for their research project, "Investigating the Dynamics of Water Within Photo-polymerized Polyethylene Glycol Hydrogels."

The poster described the students' use of NMR and FTIR methods (nuclear magnetic resonance and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) to study how water interacts with hydrogels in order to better understand their physical properties.

Hydrogels are important biomaterials, useful in drug delivery, tissue engineering and contact-lens applications. The students, who were independent-study students over this past academic year, were advised by Brandon M. Vogel, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and James Maneval, associate professor of chemical engineering.

Chem-E Car
Bucknell's team in the Chem-E Car Competition placed second in the Poster Competition, even though technical difficulties prevented the team from racing their vehicle. The Chem-E Car was powered by an internal combustion engine running on nitromethane and stopped by a statistical magnesium/acid fuse device.

Bucknell has a history of multidisciplinary and multi-class-year teams competing at this event, making them somewhat unique compared to purely chemical engineering teams typical of the event. This year's team had students from four class years and four different disciplines.

Members of the Chem-E Car team in attendance at the conference were junior and team leader Brian Smith, sophomore Ian Hasson, first-year student Eric Dybeck, senior electrical engineering major Pete Baughman, and first-year student Andrew Lowrie.

Other members of the team include senior chemistry major Adam Catherman, junior mechanical engineering major Chris Shake, sophomore chemical engineering major Mara Liebgott, sophomore chemistry major Eric Winter, and first-year student Drew Hackman.

Hopes for a national spot

The Chem-E Car team placed first last year in the regionals, and fifth in the national competition in November, Raymond said, adding that the team hopes to secure a spot in the upcoming national competition.

"I am continuously impressed by the high-quality research performed by our undergraduate students," Raymond said. "Bucknell students have won or placed four out of the last five years at the regional paper competition and the Chem-E Car team has done exceptionally well in the past three years. I look forward the future successes of our engineering students in both research and competitions."

The Bucknell AIChE student chapter will be co-host of the 2008 AIChE National Student Conference to be held in Philadelphia in November.

Contact: Division of Communications

Posted April 23, 2008