Message from the Chair

Carlos M. Rinaldi-Ramos, Ph.D.

Dear Colleagues, Alumni, and Friends,

After more than a year apart, and with increased rates of vaccination, we are more hopeful than ever for a return to a more engaging on-campus experience and our thoughts turn to rebuilding connections in our community.

We are excited to share another edition of our newsletter and celebrate the work our faculty, staff, and students have done over the past semester. Each has faced challenges and created solutions that will impact how we live, work and play in the future.

We are thrilled to announce that Charles Hages, Ph.D., and Yeongseon Jang, Ph.D., have received NSF Early Career Awards. This prestigious award recognizes and supports early career faculty who show promise for continued contributions and leadership in research and education in their fields. With this award, Dr. Hages will develop solution-based, thin-film semiconductor materials that could lead to an improved method of generating clean and renewable solar energy, and Dr. Jang will develop a synthetic protocell constructed of protein building blocks through tuning their self-assembly behavior. Synthetic versions of protocells can serve as simple, precursor models of living cells and can advance understanding about the basic rules of life.

In addition, two assistant professors have been recognized for their outstanding scholarship. David Hibbitts, Ph.D.,was named holder of the Moreno Rising Star Professorship, and Piyush K. Jain, Ph.D., was named holder of the Shah Rising Star Professorship. We are deeply appreciative of distinguished alumnus Alejandro “Alex” Moreno (BSCHE ’83), and Emeritus Professor Dr. Dinesh O. Shah, for supporting the work of our outstanding faculty.

Our faculty ranks continue to grow. In January, Sumant S. Patankar, Ph.D., began his appointment as an Instructional Assistant Professor. Dr. Patankar’s interests include semi-conductor processing, and design and analysis of experiments. The continued growth in our faculty provides our students with exposure to frontier developments in chemical engineering.

In the lab, our professors are working on some exciting research projects. Whitney L. Stoppel, Ph.D., was awarded a Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMP)/Discovery Award from the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop all-natural, cost-effective, and pathogen-free oxygen carrying particles.

Jason F. Weaver, Ph.D., has received an NSF grant to study selective methane oxidation using elaborately structured IrO2-based mixed metal oxides. In this project, Dr. Weaver will collaborate with UF ChE researchers Helena Hagelin-Weaver, Ph.D., and David Hibbitts, Ph.D., to develop a fundamental understanding of the selective conversions of methane to more valuable chemicals using well-defined oxide catalysts.

This past year, we have visited virtually with many alumni who have shared their fond memories, encouragement, and stories of success with our students. Through our Alumni Spotlight seminar, Kevin Lin (BSCHE ‘15), discussed how he applies AI to his work as a Senior R&D Engineer at PepsiCo. Albert DaCosta (BSCHE ‘98), was recognized for the second year by Gator100 as one of the world’s fastest-growing Gator businesses owned or led by UF alumni.

We are grateful for our dedicated faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Our students have risen to meet the challenges of the past year; and our faculty and staff have continuously provided the highest quality chemical engineering education to our students. While our devoted alumni continue to help students adversely affected by the disruption caused by COVID-19 through the Chemical Engineering Excellence Fund.

Together, we have persevered through a once-in-a-century pandemic. The challenges of the past year have proven that we are stronger and nimbler than we ever realized, but our greatest strength comes from the community we have with each other. We greatly appreciate your continued support, and we can’t wait to hear from you.

Warmest wishes,
Carlos M. Rinaldi-Ramos, Ph.D.
ChE Department Chair and Dean’s Leadership Professor