Illinois I-mark

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Instead of the usual in-person event, the department provided the May 2020 graduates with a congratulatory letter from the faculty, a speech by one of our alumni (see below), and a Pen-and-Ink drawing of Roger Adams Lab.  All May 2020 graduates are welcome to participate in a future in-person convocation.

Mr. Ron E. Corn, BS Chemical Engineering ’79
Senior Vice President of Petrochemicals, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company

Mr. Corn is responsible for the olefins, natural gas liquids (NGL) and aromatics product lines, as well as the company’s joint ventures in Saudi Arabia.
Previously he served as senior vice president for specialties, aromatics and styrenics; vice president of corporate planning and development; vice president of olefins and NGL and general manager, Asia, where he oversaw all company activities in the region. He most recently served as senior vice president of projects and supply chain. Over the last decade, he was instrumental in the conception, design, construction, and commissioning of a $6 billion ethylene cracker and a polyethylene plant now operational in Southeast Texas.

“May you live in interesting times” is a well-known proverb of disputed origin used as both a curse and a blessing. The Class of 2020 is setting a new standard for testing the extreme dimensions of this proverb.

Frequently the curse element is the easiest to sense – in this case, the isolation, the uncertainty around jobs and next steps, missed celebrations, the cancelling of events (and we finally had a team capable of bringing March Madness to Champaign-Urbana). And yet, as the world gets beyond Covid-19, and we will, hopefully the blessing dimension will become increasingly apparent, as the world is reminded we are all in this together, and together we can address any problem in an effective and sustainable way.

I contend your chemical engineering degrees are the most valuable global passport one can possess. It opens doors across virtually every industry, geography and work environment. Any of you can go anywhere and do almost anything. You can take chemistry at the theoretical or lab level and scale it up to create solutions that improve lives around the world.

Chemical and biomolecular engineers are on the front lines of continuing to raise the standard of living worldwide, while simultaneously ensuring we reverse the toll on the environment as we do so. In that respect, some of the core challenges for your generation and beyond will be to identify solutions to provide clean water, hygienic and healthy food, effective medical care, efficient transportation, and comfortable shelter, while addressing challenges like global warming and resource depletion as the world population continues to grow.

It will be up to you to find solutions that solve multiple problems at once without creating new ones. My top leadership mentor calls this seeking “and” solutions. While “and” solutions are no simple feat, I am confident you have the skills, drive, and tools to be successful. Maybe one or more of you will be inspired to pursue protecting the world from the next pandemic with a safe, accessible, cost-effective, and sustainable solution!

At least one small blessing of the current state of affairs is not having to sit through a boring commencement speech. I am still going to follow standard tradition and share my 40-plus years of reflections and advice, but now you have the freedom to simply skip ahead and begin celebrating your accomplishment from a safe distance.

I will keep it simple and role model one of my life takeaways – frame things as simply as possible.

• Embrace lifelong learning – you are celebrating a great accomplishment today, however, in reality, you are still very early in your learning process. Stay curious, open minded and be a critical, scientific-based thinker.

• Leadership – study, reflect and develop your approach to becoming an increasingly effective leader. Early in my career I had more of a Hollywood inspired view of leadership. It wasn’t until I had the privilege to work for some great leaders that I recognized what it takes to develop the critical skill set needed to engage and influence others, something that is as important in your personal life as in professional settings.

• Respect and caring – personal relationships will be the foundation for almost everything you accomplish, and it all starts with sincere behaviors that exhibit care and respect for others. Listen and consider before judging.

• Take risks, try new things and don’t fear failure – many of my most valuable growth experiences came as a result of overcoming my reluctance to leave a comfortable situation for a new one that wasn’t really part of my plan.

These concepts are important in both professional and personal settings. The same skills required to lead a team toward creating a breakthrough product can be used to convince a team of five-year-olds to space themselves on a soccer field, without having everyone simply chase the ball. And no matter the setting, an effective approach to leadership will increase the odds of garnering success and a sense of fulfillment, accomplishment and, possibly most important, fun!

Congratulations to the University of Illinois ChBE Class of 2020! Congratulations as well to all the parents, families, and supporters of the graduates. Another blessing of these times is a new appreciation of teachers by all the parents who were suddenly thrust into homeschooling their children. Please take the time to give a special thanks to all the teachers who inspired you and built the foundation for your success.

While the curses of the Covid-19 pandemic are quite obvious, I am hopeful that, over the next decades, you will be able to look back and see the blessings of your senior year experiences, as they will have shaped both you and the world you live in.

No doubt you are all destined to live in interesting times!

The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is pleased to announce Professor David Sholl will deliver the Parr Lecture this September.

Sholl is the John F. Brock III School Chair of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech. His research uses computational materials modeling to accelerate development of new materials for energy-related applications, including generation and storage of gaseous and liquid fuels and chemicals and carbon dioxide mitigation.

His talk, entitled, “Expanding the chemical palette for reliable adsorption-based separations,” will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, September 20, 2018, in 116 Roger Adams Laboratory.

Prior to his appointment at Georgia Tech, Sholl was on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University. He grew up in Australia and received his undergraduate degree in Theoretical Physics from the Australian National University. He then received a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Sholl has published over 320 papers and has also written a textbook on Density Functional Theory, a quantum chemistry method that is widely applied through the physical sciences and engineering. He is a Senior Editor of the ACS journal Langmuir and was instrumental in leading the development of RAPID, a $70 million Department of Energy-funded manufacturing institute focused on process intensification run by AIChE.

The Parr Lecture is named after Samuel W. Parr, the founder of chemical engineering at Illinois. A Granville, Ill. native, Parr became professor of applied chemistry and head of industrial chemistry at Illinois in 1891. He was a prolific author and made numerous discoveries. Parr developed an alloy—called Illium, made of nine different metals—that has powerful corrosion-resisting properties. He also invented the first simplified instrument for measuring the heating value of coal.

On Sunday, May 13, 2018, the department celebrated the achievements of another outstanding group of students. Approximately 125 graduating seniors and seven PhD students participated in this spring’s ceremony in the Tryon Festival Theatre at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Overall, for the 2017-2018 school year, the department awarded 15 PhDs and a record number of 192 bachelor degrees. For the second year in a row, the department included graduate students in the May ceremony. A reception was held immediately after the ceremony on Centennial Plaza between Noyes Lab and the Chemistry Annex.

This year’s convocation address was presented by two speakers: husband-and-wife alumni Deborah Roberts Correnti (BS ’84) and Corey Correnti (BS ’85). Both arrived on campus as freshmen in the fall of 1980 from suburban Chicago. They met junior year in a chemical engineering class. In his address, Corey Correnti said it’d been a long time since they presented together.

“The last time we did a joint presentation was our senior year here at Illinois. Even though we were dating, we decided to be lab partners for our senior project. Two competitive individuals working side-by-side for an entire semester in a tiny lab in RAL. Both of us had strong views on how to run the experiments and the best way to present the results. What could possibly go wrong? The good news is that we made it through and are still happily married after all these years.”

Corey Correnti started his career in refining engineering with Amoco and would later work in a variety of refining operations management and commercial roles. After Amoco, he joined BP, where he rose through the ranks and held a number of senior leadership positions in the U.K. and U.S. Before his retirement from BP in 2015, he was Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Supply. He is now a senior advisor to Marakon, a global corporate strategy firm, providing energy sector expertise and strategic support.

Deborah Correnti worked in manufacturing and process design for Monsanto and Amoco Chemical companies. Later, she became involved in Amoco’s marketing department and managed the daily operations of a petrochemical product line. She also has held positions in operations planning, economic analysis, and strategic planning. Her specialty was microeconomic analysis and production optimization. She has taught micro and macroeconomics for nearly 20 years in the U.S. and the U.K. and is currently a lecturer at Benedictine University.

Both also hold MBAs from the University of Chicago.

In her remarks to students, Deborah Correnti described her life and career path as one “of saying yes to unusual opportunities.”

“Some of my best adventures were a result of saying yes to things I never imagined—like joining a writers group in an old London house, pitching screenplays to Hollywood producers, learning to paint, running a non-profit art league, and even working as an antiques dealer. It’s all part of the journey and all to be embraced. My advice would be to stay open to new opportunities, take chances, say yes. You never know where this will lead,” she said.

When Corey graduated, he had many questions on his mind. “Did I pick the right job? Did I pick the right industry? Did I make the right career choice?” He advised students not to worry too much about whether they made the right choice after graduation.

“You can have a plan and be making it up as you go along. This requires taking in the scenery to recognize new opportunities. As a newly graduated engineer, I had little knowledge or interest in non-technical areas. I knew I enjoyed challenging problems and working across teams to solve them. I liked variety and new experiences. I valued personal interactions and seeing tangible results from my work. These personal needs took me into areas that I could never imagine as a new graduate: manufacturing, R&D, corporate planning, commodity trading, marketing and sales. The key to navigating this was being honest with myself, knowing deep down what I truly value and what work really satisfies and feeds me.”

Photos from the event may be downloaded from this site:

On Friday, April 13, 2018, the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering honored its outstanding students at the Undergraduate Awards Ceremony. At the annual event, faculty presented the 2017-2018 scholarships and Omega Chi Epsilon, the national honor society for chemical engineering, announced winners of the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

This year marked the 10th year for the undergraduate research symposium. Thanks to our alumni judges who volunteered their time. Joe Drago (BS ’72) is a retired nuclear engineer from the Department of Energy who is now a consultant to the energy industry and nonprofit organizations. He also has his master’s in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering from Illinois. Dan Hanus (BS ’86) is a section head at Procter & Gamble and has an MBA from Xavier University.

This year, judges awarded three students the top award: Qihua Chen, Marko Ivancevic, and Eli Karvelis. Chen, a member of Dr. Diwakar Shukla’s research group, presented with, “Molecular Dynamics Simulations Reveal the Conformational Heterogeneity of a Strigolactone Receptor in Parasitic Plants.” Marko Ivancevic, who worked with the Paranthaman Research Group at Oak Ridge National Lab, presented, “Novel Carbon Electrodes Derived from Waste Tires for Capacitive Deionization of Brackish Water.” Eli Karvelis, a member of Dr. Brendan Harley’s research group, presented, “Modeling Glioblastoma Invasion with Microfluidic Chips.”

Honorable mentions were awarded to Alayna Johnson and Anastasiya Lukiyanenko.

Judge Dan Hanus, Department Head Dr. Paul Kenis, symposium winners Qihua Chen, Elijah Karvelis and Marko Ivancevic, and judge Joe Drago (BS ’72)

Congratulations to all the research symposium participants.

Qihua Chen (Shukla Group), Molecular Dynamics Simulations Reveal the Conformational Heterogeneity of a Strigolactone Receptor in Parasitic Plants

Marko Ivancevic (Paranthaman Group, Oak Ridge National Lab), Novel Carbon Electrodes Derived from Waste Tires for Capacitive Deionization of Brackish Water

Alayna Johnson (Flaherty Group), Effects of Catalyst Hydrophobicity on Rates and Selectives of Alkene Epoxidation

Eli Karvelis (Harley Group), Modeling Glioblastoma Invasion with Microfluidic Chips

Anastasiya Lukiyanenko (Diao Group), Characterizing Cooperative Transitions in Organic Semiconductors

Jun Og (Murphy, Kenis Groups), Gold Nanorod-Hydrogel Composite

June Qian (Sing Group), Single-Chain Dynamics of Ring Polymers in Dilute Solution Under Mixed Flows

Channing Richter (Schroeder Group), Precise Control Over Position and Orientation of Anisotropic Colloidal Particles Using Stokes Trap

Bugra Sahin (Guironnet Group), Di-block Bottlebrush Polymer Synthesis

Yuquan Tong (Burke Group), An Iterative Approach to the Synthesis of Contiguous Polyols

Research symposium judges Dan Hanus and Joe Drago with OXE president and symposium organizer Mikaela Dressendorfer.

Scholarships awarded

Also on Friday, Department Head Dr. Paul Kenis and members of the ChBE scholarship committee handed out scholarships for the 2018-2018 year.

This is the first year the department gave out the Kirk Nass and Michael Gillespie Scholarship. Kirk Nass, an Illinois ChemE graduate from the Class of 1983, recently established a scholarship with his husband Michael Gillespie. After graduating from Illinois, Kirk Nass went on to earn a PhD from the University of Washington and is now a technical team leader at Chevron in California.

This is also the first year the department present a student with the Rebekah Schiff-Berger Scholarship. Rebekah was a James Scholar and involved in a variety of organizations, including AIChE, the Society of Women Engineers, and the department’s Undergraduate Advisory Board. The scholarship was established by her parents, Linda Schiff and Neil Berger, as well as family and friends. In the wake of Rebekah’s passing in 2015, friends and classmates organized several events to raise money for the scholarship. Rebekah was dearly loved by family and friends and touched many lives during her time here on campus. The department hopes through this scholarship she will continue to do so.

Below is the complete list of 2017-2018 scholarship winners.  More information on scholarships funded by generous alumni and friends can be found here.

John Martin Ankenbauer Memorial Scholarship

Ty’Nya Larry


Franklin A. Boyle Scholarship

Elijah Karvelis


CITGO Scholarship

Pacharapol Charoensuk

Elizabeth Tang

Kevin Wade


Donald E. Eisele Scholarship

Jesus Sanchez


ExxonMobil Scholarship

Pak Wing Chen

Weikun Zhu


Robert S. Frye Scholarship

Robert Schneider


Clarence G. Gerhold Memorial Scholarship

Michelle Brown

Anthony Salazar

Sanjna Shah


Dr. Joseph and Donna Glas Scholarship in Memory of Professor James Westwater

Christian Monte

Alishba Rehman


James K. Grant Scholarship

Vivek Vermani


Chester W. Hannum Scholarship

Alishba Rehman

Isaac Strain


Edmund D. and Sara J. Heerdt Scholarship

Marko Ivancevic

Jing Zhao


Earp Jennings Chemical Engineering Scholarship

Mateusz Dusza


Donald B. Keyes Award in Chemical Engineering

Kevin Wade


John W. Latchum, Jr. Scholarship

Caleb Zmuda


Dr. Ray A. Mentzer Scholarship

Jessica Rabczak


Kirk Nass and Michael Gillespie Scholarship

Royce Chen


Edward I. Onstott Scholarship

Faisal Aldukhi


Raymond M. Pasteris Scholarship

Ethan Dukovic


Pathways to Success Scholarship

Claudia Cappa

Estelle Mace

Randy Marquez

Ambar Rivera

Christopher Torres


Phillips 66 Scholarship

Mingyan Liu

Gina Partipilo

Victoria Wisniewski


Worth Huff Rodebush Scholarship

Dongkwan Lee


Rebekah Schiff-Berger Memorial Scholarship

Sanjna Shah


Thomas R. and Yolanda S. Stein Scholarship

Channing Richter

Jesus Sanchez


Glenn E. and Barbara R. Ullyot Scholarship

June Qian

Ugonna Oduocha


R.J. Van Mynen Chemical Engineering Scholarship

Ami Patel


Bruno H. Wojcik Scholarship

Huayang Liu




Colleagues, friends, and family gathered Friday, April 6, 2018, to honor William S. Hammack and thank supporters Jim and Karen Morris at a ceremony marking Hammack’s appointment as the Donald and Dolores Morris Professorial Scholar.

Paul Kenis, department head, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Karen and Jim Morris, Bill Hammack, Donald and Dolores Morris Professorial Scholar, Jonathan Sweedler, director, School of Chemical Sciences; Matthew Ando, associate dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Hammack, a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois, has pioneered new and novel approaches to engineering outreach. He received his BS in Chemical Engineering from Michigan Technological University in 1984 and his MS and PhD from the University of Illinois in 1986 and 1988, studying intramolecular electron transfer under the late Dr. Harry G. Drickamer. Prof. Hammack joined the department as a faculty member in 1998 after teaching at Carnegie Mellon for a decade.

Bill Hammack

From 1999 to 2006, he created a groundbreaking series of over 200 pieces for public radio that described what engineers do, why they do it, and how. Dr. Hammack also created and is host of the popular YouTube channel “engineerguyvideo.” His YouTube videos and pieces for public radio have been seen or heard millions of times around the world.

Jim and Karen Morris

The Donald and Dolores Morris Professorial Scholar was established by Illinois alumnus Jim Morris (BS ChemE ’81) and his wife Karen Morris in honor of Jim’s parents, Donald and Dolores Morris. As children of the Depression, Donald and Dolores came from humble beginnings and always stressed the importance of a college education to their three children.

After he graduated from Illinois, Jim Morris joined Exxon and over the years he has held a variety of different positions with Exxon and ExxonMobil. He has worked on projects throughout the Gulf Coast and around the world, including offshore production operations in Nigeria and a liquefied natural gas project in Qatar. Now chief facilities engineer for ExxonMobil Upstream, he is responsible for the global application of facilities technologies, career development for engineers, and planning key strategic initiatives. He and his wife Karen live in Houston, Texas.

The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is pleased to announce alumni Corey Correnti and Deborah Roberts Correnti will address graduates at its May 2018 convocation. Deborah graduated with a BS in Chemical Engineering from Illinois in 1984; Corey received his BS in ChemE from Illinois in 1985. Both also hold MBA degrees from the University of Chicago.

Corey Correnti

Corey Correnti is currently a senior advisor to Marakon, a global corporate strategy firm, providing energy sector expertise and strategic support. Previously, he held several senior leadership roles at BP. His most recent position was Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Supply; he led the supply, sales, and marketing for BP’s US Downstream business. Corey started his career in refining engineering with Amoco and later worked in various refining operations management and commercial roles. He later led a global chemical feedstock business and US Supply & Trading operations at BP. His career has included postings in both the U.K. and U.S.

Deborah Correnti

Deborah Correnti is currently an Adjunct Lecturer of Economics at Benedictine University in Lisle. Previously, she worked in manufacturing and process design for Monsanto and Amoco Chemical companies. After leaving engineering, she worked in the marketing department for Amoco, managing daily operations of a petrochemical product line. She also has held positions in operations planning, economic analysis and strategic planning for a variety of product lines. Her specialty was microeconomic analysis and production optimization. She has taught micro and macroeconomics for 19 years in the U.S. and in London.

Spring Convocation for graduates of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will be at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 13, 2018, in the Tryon Festival Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana. Students must register in advance.

A select group of high school students have been invited to spend two days on campus this March shadowing current students in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering for a sample of what life is like as a ChBE student.

The Illinois AIChE Host Program will take place Sunday, March 11 to Monday, March 12, 2018. During those two days, prospective students will stay overnight in a dorm, attend lectures and tour labs, and participate in activities such as bowling in the Illini Union. Students will also attend a question-and-answer panel discussion with current students from the department.

“The host program helps admitted student get a better picture of what life will look like for them,” said current ChBE student and host program organizer Hannah Chait.

The department invited a select group of admitted students to attend the two-day program. All costs, excluding travel, are provided by the department. Ready to accept your invitation? Email your registration to Hannah Chait at today!

The program is organized by the Illinois Chapter of American Institute of Chemical Engineers and sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering is pleased to announce Dr. John Anderson will deliver its Distinguished Alumni Lecture this spring.

Anderson’s talk, “Then and Now: Chemical Engineering and U.S. Investment in Research,” will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, 2018, in Room 116 of Roger Adams Laboratory.

Dr. John Anderson, former president IIT, Spring 2018 Distinguished Alumni Lecturer

Since receiving his BS in Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware and his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois in 1971 (Quinn), Dr. Anderson has served on the faculties of Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University and Illinois Institute of Technology. He served as the president of IIT from 2007 to 2015 and is currently Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering there.

Anderson was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1992 for his contributions to the understanding of colloidal hydrodynamics and membrane transport phenomena. He currently serves on the NAE’s council. In 2014, he was appointed by President Obama to the National Science Board. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been awarded the Acrivos Professional Progress Award of AIChE (1989) and the National Engineering Award by the American Association of Engineering Societies (2012).

His past academic leadership positions include chair of biomedical engineering, department head of chemical engineering and dean of engineering at Carnegie Mellon; and provost and executive vice president at Case Western Reserve. At Carnegie Mellon, he held various positions, including University Professor, Gulf Professor of Chemical Engineering, and the (first) Robert Mehrabian Endowed Chair in Engineering. As a Guggenheim Fellow, he was visiting professor at MIT in 1982-83, and he has held visiting professorships at Landbouwuniversiteit Wageningen in the Netherlands and the University of Melbourne in Australia. He has served on advisory boards/visiting committees for several universities. He has mentored 26 doctoral students.

Congratulations to December 2017 graduates in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering!

The department’s winter convocation was held on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, in Room 116 of Roger Adams Laboratory, 600 South Mathews Avenue, Urbana.

Dr. Chris Burcham

The speaker was Dr. Christopher Burcham, BS ’92. Dr. Burcham is a Senior Engineering Advisor at Eli Lilly and Company, in the Small Molecule Design and Development department within Product Research and Development. He currently is the lead engineer responsible for the commercialization of a late phase development project. He earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1992 and his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University in 1998.

A reception was held immediately following the ceremony.

Congratulations to Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering graduate student Prapti Kafle and the Diao Group for winning the Science Image Challenge award!

The annual research image competition is organized by the School of Chemical Sciences’ Viz Lab. Winners were honored at the SCS VizLab Open House on Dec. 14.

Kafle’s image is called, “Colors of Nature.” Here’s the description: Cross-polarized microscopy image of multilayered film consisting of alternate layers of an anti-cancer drug ellipticine and an edible polysaccharide polymer, pullulan. The nanothin film, produced by successive shearing of the drug and polymer solutions on silicon, embraces a magnificent morphology with needles and spherulites, that evokes colorful elements of nature unique to spectator’s imagination.”

The Diao Lab pursues fundamental understanding and control of molecular assembly processes to advance innovations in printed electronics for energy and healthcare.

“Colors of Nature,” the 2017 Science Image Challenge Winner, by Prapti Kafle-Diao Group

Congratulations also to graduate student Bo Li with the Schroeder Group. His image “Supramolecular Fibers” was a finalist.

“Supramolecular Fibers,” Science Image Challenge finalist, by Bo Li-Schroeder Group

“AFM image of self-assembled supramolecular fibers consisting of pi-conjugated oligopeptide. Upon fast evaporation of polar solvent, synthetic pi-conjugated oligopeptides spontaneously self-assembled into supramolecular fibers due to directional hydrogen bonding and pi-pi stacking interactions.”

More information and images.

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