Message from the Chair

Carlos M. Rinaldi-Ramos, Ph.D.

Dear alumni, friends, and members of the UF ChE community, 

I hope this note finds you in good health and spirits as we face the challenges and embrace the opportunities of our time. 

I am thrilled to announce that I have been reappointed as the department chair for the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. The past six years have been filled with excitement and productivity, and I am deeply honored to continue serving in this role. My dedication to furthering our department’s vision and mission remains unwavering, and I eagerly look forward to collaborating with all our stakeholders to further enhance our department’s standing.

I am pleased to bring attention to some of the noteworthy news and events that defined the past year.

In this edition, we celebrate the recognition of our faculty for their extraordinary impact and professional achievements. Fan Ren, Ph.D., a distinguished professor, was elected an AIChE Fellow (page 4), and I was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (page 5).  

This past year was exceptionally rewarding for our early-career faculty members. Carl Denard, Ph.D., Piyush Jain, Ph.D., and Whitney Stoppel, Ph.D., each earned the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of General Medical Sciences R35 Early-Stage Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (page 6). Additionally, Dr. Denard received the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award (page 9).

Amid a year marked by innovation and impact, Piyush Jain, Ph.D., an assistant professor, is leveraging AI to develop a home-based testing method that rivals the reliability of lab-based tests. You can find more information on this ground-breaking work (pages 14 and 15). We hope you enjoy learning about these projects and other faculty honors and awards.

Our students consistently bring us immense pride. Five were awarded prestigious NSF fellowships (page 16). Furthermore, the AIChE student chapter achieved remarkable success at the AIChE Annual meeting and went on to effectively host the Southern Student Regional Conference this year, marking a significant milestone as the first in-person event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (pages 18-21). Many of our students garnered recognition and awards at various local, national, and international events (pages 22-23).

This year, our staff experienced significant transitions. Ricky Whitney and Randall Ledkins embarked on new career opportunities beyond the college and university, and we express our gratitude for their commitment and valuable contributions. Simultaneously, we extended a warm welcome to three new staff members: Shaniece Benis, administrative assistant to the chair; Kristen Burns, our new undergraduate academic advisor; and Nicole Bristow, who has joined us as the associate director of business services.

As always, we are grateful for the support from our alumni, in time, talent and treasure. John Blazeck, Ph.D. (B.S. ChE ’07), served as the keynote speaker at the annual GRACE symposium and shared two big-picture ideas for combating cancer (page 26). Esdras Camacho (B.S. ChE ’23) shared his aspirations and the obstacles he faced as an undergraduate student amidst the pandemic.

I hope you enjoy reading this magazine and I eagerly anticipate your feedback or the opportunity to meet you at an upcoming event.


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