Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois

ChemE undergraduates receive honors at AIChE

Members of the Illinois student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) received various honors including being named an outstanding student chapter at this year’s annual student conference.

More than 1,200 undergraduates from 100 chemical engineering schools traveled to the conference that took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from October 27 to 30. While there, students met with engineering professionals and other students to share and develop knowledge and career skills and participated in competitions to foster teamwork and innovation.

Besides receiving the Outstanding Student Chapter Award, the following individual awards were presented to Isabel Ahrendt, Freshman Recognition Award, Morgan Bakies, first place in the Sustainability Poster competition and first place for the Harry West Student Paper Award, Nick Connolly, UOP/Honeywell ScaleUp Scholarship, Alia Khan, Dow ScaleUp Scholarship, Erica Peterson, Donald F. Othmer Sophomore Academic Excellence Award and Michael Richards, Corning ScaleUp Scholarship.

Assistant Professor Brendan Harley, who also serves as an advisor for the Illinois AIChE chapter, said the recognition that the students received is well-earned.

“The national level recognition of our AIChE chapter is a well-deserved honor for the hard work our chapter has put in,” he said. “Our chapter provides leadership and service opportunities for our students on this campus as well as the opportunity to establish important professional relationships that will last their entire careers.”

Morgan Bakies, a sophomore in Chemical Engineering, was honored for her research that she conducted at the University of Alabama this past summer as part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates program which gives undergraduates an opportunity to participate in research and allows students to continue on to graduate school or industrial research.

Bakies received the first place awards for her poster titled “C4 biofuel and high value biochemical production using metabolically engineered Clostridia,” which focused on her work with Clostridium tyobutyricum to metabolically engineer the bacteria to produce more butanol for biofuel purposes.

She said presenting at the AIChE student conference provided essential networking. “My presentation gave me the wonderful experience of presenting research which will help to further my career as a chemical engineer while creating new relationships internationally with fellow chemical engineers and professors who share my passions,” she said.

Bakies says she hopes her participation in the AIChE poster session will lead more undergraduate students to submit posters and abstracts in the future.

Illinois AIChE president and senior Alia Khan said she also wants to encourage students to compete in national paper and poster competitions. “You get to meet new faculty, have an amazing experience, and if you are looking to grad school it is a good way to build your network and bulk up your resume,” she said.

Khan said she was especially excited to see the chapter receive the various awards at the national conference. “These awards help to validate the work and innovation that we have been putting into this chapter to create an organization that truly benefits both the students and the department,” she said. “Recognition at the national level helps to promote awareness of what our chapter has been working on as well as the strength of the chemical engineering department at the University of Illinois.”

AIChE member and senior Roxanne De Leon said she was happy to see students participate in the conference. “Students involved in AIChE don’t just survive college; they thrive and eventually move on to even greater things after graduating,” she said. “AIChE helps students become well-rounded individuals.”