Fall 2015 Chemical and Materials Engineering Newsletter
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR
Dear Alumni, Students and Friends,
One of the highlights of this past year was our interviewing for a long-awaited fifth faculty position in our Materials Science and Engineering program, which led to the successful hiring of assistant professor Samrat Choudhury from Los Alamos National Laboratory in the area of computational design of advanced materials, including but not limited to electronics and energy applications. To the best of my knowledge, this is actually a landmark event for the university as Choudhury brings a very broad range of materials simulation and modeling expertise to U of I for the first time.
Perhaps the next highlight of the year is simply but profoundly the outstanding fashion in which our faithful supporters continue to come through every year with increasing impact to fund our scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students, for design team challenges and international competitions, for laboratory support and pushing toward full funding for The Lou Edwards Endowed Chemical Engineering Chair, which of course is a long-term yet extremely important goal for our department as state funding keeps falling short. Our second funding target for the near future is growing our graduate student programs. The most probable mechanism (tried-and-true) by which an academic institution grows is by investing in research, and the graduate student population is key to the success of both that endeavor as well as President Staben’s primary goal of growing undergraduate enrollment by 50 percent in the next ten years. A study of other growing academic programs shows that in most cases sustained enrollment growth follows monetary investment. I think of Outstanding senior Breanna Wong (BS ChE 2015) who was recruited to Washington State University for graduate studies in chemical engineering, and our heart-felt congratulations to her! But this great success for Breanna also contrasts for me with a personal regret that we could not offer her a competitive research assistantship to keep her. We need to do better, and this should be a focus for us all in the coming years.
Design teams led by Drown and his collaborators are still winning (see page 2), in part thanks to all of you who continue to support their projects; new grants and contracts keep coming as well, and the extra gifts that you give to our development funds have been put to excellent use recently for graduate student support and shop and lab upgrades (see impact statements by Charles and James in the newsletter). We look forward to your visits, comments, suggestions, questions and stories at any time throughout the year. As everyone keeps extremely busy, we would appreciate some warning before you drop by the office, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, because we certainly do not want to miss the chance to catch up with you.
— Eric Aston,