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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Graduate Research Symposium

The Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois held its annual Graduate Research Symposium for its graduate students on Friday, October 27, 2017.

The symposium allows graduate students to present their work in the form of either a poster or an oral presentation. Research areas include a range of topics, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, computational science, and energy applications. James W. Westwater Professor Edmund Seebauer presented the awards.

In the poster competition, Charles Young won first place with “The Rheology of Semidilute Polymer Solutions.” Young is a member of Assistant Professor Charles Sing’s research group. Pei-Chieh Shih was awarded second place with “Iridium-based Pyrochlores for Efficient Oxygen Evolution Reaction in Acid.” Chieh is a member of Richard C. Alkire Professor Hong Yang’s research group.

In the oral competition, Dylan Walsh won the first place award with “Topology Control of Bottlebrush Polymers.” Walsh is a member of Assistant Professor Damien Guironnet’s research group. Saurabh Shukla came in second with “How Multiple Molecular Motors Transport Cargo in Cells.” He is a member of Physics Professor Paul Selvin’s research group. Thao Ngo won third place with “Studying the Durability of Pt-based Electrocatalysts for Oxygen Reduction Reaction Using in situ X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy.” Ngo is a member of Dr. Yang’s research group.

Invited judges are typically Illinois alumni from industry and academia who help us identify the best poster and oral presentations. The symposium also provides students with one-on-one opportunities to network with the judges.

Judges for the 2017 symposium included Dr. Meredith Sellers (PhD ’10, Seebauer) with Exponent Consulting; Dr. Josh Tice (PhD ’07, Kenis) with Scientific Device Laboratory; Dr. Qingjun Meng (PhD ’04, Higdon) with BP; and Dr. Gregory Underhill, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois.

Dr. Meredith Sellers is a Managing Engineer in the Materials and Corrosion Engineering Practice of Exponent, Inc. In her capacity as a technical consultant at Exponent, she aids clients with materials analysis and incident/accident investigation, particularly as they relate to oil and gas pipelines, chemical process safety, and integrated circuit fabrication. Her research expertise lies in the synthesis and characterization of nanostructured materials for microelectronics and energy storage devices. Sellers earned her BS from Cornell University and PhD in Chemical Engineering from Illinois. Prior to joining Exponent, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center – Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (ERDC-CERL).

Dr. Qingjun Meng is currently the Simulation Team Lead in Refining Technology and Engineering of BP. He received his BS and MS in Chemical Engineering and Polymer Science from Tsinghua University in China.  He then joined the PhD program at Illinois and received his degree in 2004, under the supervision of Professor Jonathan Higdon. After graduation, he started his career at BP Petrochemicals Technology in Naperville, IL, and later on moved to Refining Technology and Engineering. Meng has been mostly involved in Computational Fluid Dynamics, process modeling in petrochemicals and refining, and operator training simulators.

Dr. Gregory H. Underhill is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois. Dr. Underhill received his PhD from Northwestern University, with his doctoral research focused on the mechanisms controlling the tissue recruitment of T lymphocytes and the functional characteristics of antibody secreting plasma cells. Dr. Underhill completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia’s laboratory at MIT, where he worked to develop and apply engineered cell culture platforms towards the study of cell functions. His current research is focused on studying cellular fate decisions, including the tissue development and engineering of the liver. These efforts are at the interface of cell and developmental biology, genomics, biomaterials, and microfabrication.

Dr. Joshua Tice received a BS in Chemistry from the University of Chicago in 2005 and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 2012. During his time in academia, he focused on studying microfabrication and applications thereof – including chemical synthesis, diagnostics, and protein crystallization. After a year working at Intel, Dr. Tice took a position as a Product Development Engineer at Scientific Device Laboratory. There, he heads the R&D division, pushing to make microfluidic technology a commercial reality.

2017 Winners

Charles Young received first place in the poster competition.
Pei-Chieh Shih was awarded second place in the poster competition.
Dylan Walsh won first place in the oral presentation.
Saurabh Shukla won second place in the oral presentation.
Thao Ngo won third place in the oral competition.

Symposium schedule

POSTER PRESENTATIONS: Chemical Life Sciences Laboratory-A

9 a.m.: The Rheology of Semidilute Polymer Solutions, Charles Young

9:15 a.m.: Investigation of Copper on Metal Oxides as Catalysts for Selective CO2 Electroreduction, Uzoma Nwabara

9:30 a.m.: Iridium-based Pyrochlores for Efficient Oxygen Evolution Reaction in Acid, Pei-Cheih Shih

9:45 a.m.: Oxygen Diffusion in Rutile TiO2, Heonjae Jeong


10:45 a.m.: Topology Control of Bottlebrush Polymers, Dylan Walsh

11:05 a.m.: A New Approach to the Rheological Characterization of Polymeric Systems, Ching-Wei Lee

11:25 a.m.: Dynamic Template Directed Multiscale Assembly of Semiconducting Polymers, Erfan Mohammadi


1 p.m.: Studying the Durability of Pt-based Electrocatalysts for Oxygen Reduction Reaction Using in situ X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy, Thao Ngo

1:20 p.m.: Harnessing the Reductive Power of Carbon Monoxide in Organic Synthesis Applications, Malek Ibrahim

1:40 p.m.: Electroreforming CO2 with Glycerol: A Cost Competitive and Carbon Neutral Pathway for the Production of Value Added C1-C2 Chemicals Using Grid Electricity, Sumit Verma

2:20 p.m.: CRISPR/Cas9-mediated Knock-in of an Optimized TetO Repeat for Live Cell Imaging of Endogenous Loci, Ipek Tasan

2:40 p.m.: Cooperative Tandem Reactions Combining Photoisomerization of Enzymatic Reduction, Yajie Wang

3 p.m.: How Multiple Molecular Motors Transport Cargo in Cells, Saurabh Shukla

For more information about the symposium, email

Past Symposiums