Ahead of the Curve

| October 27, 2017

Chemical engineering undergraduate students are set to shine at the 2017 AIChE Annual Meeting

L-R: Sophie Lin, Erynn Naccarelli, Chad Province and Joseph Stiles. Photos courtesy of pictured students

Completing a summer internship. Working in a research laboratory. Volunteering for an organization. All are important acts of self-discovery that offer college students a sense of purpose and future direction.

Another milestone more common for today’s undergraduate students is joining a professional society and perhaps attending or presenting at its annual conference.

Sophie Lin, Erynn Naccarelli, Chad Province and Joseph Stiles will represent the USC Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the 2017 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting held October 29-November 3 in Minneapolis. The four undergraduate students will present their research, ranging from developing new materials for solar cells to improving manufacturing of nanomaterials.

At the event, they will be joined by the USC AIChE student chapter’s Chem-E-Car team and USC AIChE student chapter faculty advisors Professor Andrea Armani and Associate Professor Noah Malmstadt.

The most important thing that students get out of presenting at conferences is the confidence to describe and defend their work.Associate Professor Noah Malmstadt

“The courses at USC teach students the fundamentals,” said Armani, the Ray Irani Chair in Engineering and Materials Science. “In contrast, the presentations at AIChE expose students to discoveries that haven’t made it into textbooks.”

Malmstadt added: “The most important thing that students get out of presenting at conferences is the confidence to describe and defend their work. It really represents their first foray into scientific discourse, and helps them to understand that they’ve become part of a world-wide community that respects, understands and is capable of thinking critically about their research.”

Sophie Lin

Senior Sophie Lin ‘18 came from Taipei, Taiwan to USC and was originally interested in becoming a veterinarian.

Sophie Lin BS ChE ’18 is an undergraduate researcher in Associate Professor Noah Malmstadt’s lab. Photo courtesy of Lin

Lin, who will achieve her B.S. in Chemical Engineering this May, started doing nanoparticle manufacturing research for a USC Viterbi graduate student’s project. Since 2016, she has been an undergraduate researcher for Associate Professor Noah Malmstadt and even completed her own independent research project in his lab this summer.

She will be presenting research for which she is lead author at the 2017 AIChE Annual Meeting.  The research focus: making liposomes, which are tiny membranous bubbles used for pharmaceutical drug delivery, on a nanoscale by using microfluidics.

Although she is nervous to present in front of the large audience, she knows the inherent value of the experience.

“I think for PhD students and professors, one of the important skills is to be able to talk about your research and be confident about it,” Lin said. “That’s what I want to practice doing.”

An avid animal lover, Lin volunteers at Kitty Bungalow and LA Rabbits Foundation, both local animal rescue and shelter organizations.  Her two foster bunnies are cleverly named Demitasse and Teacup (she notes that Demitasse is Teacup’s grandmother).

Erynn Naccarelli

Erynn Naccarelli BS ChE ’18 is the current USC Chapter AIChE President. Photo courtesy of Naccarelli

Current USC Chapter AIChE President Erynn Naccarelli is interested in recycling composite materials that are stronger than steel or aluminum. These materials, called carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs), are used as an integral material in aerospace, astronautical and defense manufacturing and have potential for future use in automotive and civil-structural engineering industries. An issue lies in developing a successful way to recycle these composites. 

“The current inability to effectively recycle these materials in a sustainable manner impedes their adoption into these industries,” Naccarelli said. “We’re applying small molecule, organic catalysis to these materials in order to depolymerize the polymer matrix without damaging the fibers, and working to recover valuable monomers from the polymer degradation.”

The senior, whose minor is Italian, currently works in the research labs of Professor Steven NuttM.C. Gill Chair in Composite Materials and Travis Williams, Associate Professor of Organic and Organometallic Chemistry.

Naccarelli is excited to present her research poster titled “Recycling of Benzoxazine-Based Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymers via Catalytic Oxidation” at the upcoming AIChE meeting. 

“This is my first research presentation, and I think it will be a valuable learning experience for me,” Naccarelli said. “As AIChE chapter president, I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to coordinate such a large group of students, many of whom are also presenting research.”

I hope to gain a greater insight into the manner in which academia and industry co-operate to further broaden the benefits provided to society through chemical engineeringChad Province, BS ChE '19

Chad Province

Chad Province ‘19, a junior, is articulate and explains his summer USC Viterbi Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project in a casual, engaging manner. Province spent the summer in Raleigh, N.C. working for the Research Triangle Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC).

Chad Province is a junior majoring in Chemical Engineering with a Petroleum Engineering emphasis. Photo courtesy of Province

He serves as the Vice President of Social Affairs for the AIChE USC Chapter and will present his poster on bacterial motility and its influence on pile formation in fluids at this year’s AIChE annual meeting. For his research presentation at Research Triangle MRSEC, Province won “best speech.”

He plans to use the AIChE conference experience to better understand the dynamic between academia and industry.

“I hope to gain a greater insight into the manner in which academia and industry co-operate to further broaden the benefits provided to society through chemical engineering,” Province said.

In his spare time, Province volunteers as a team leader for Jumpstart, a non-profit that provides equal education opportunities for preschoolers from under-resourced communities. Identifying with the children’s plight, he seeks to pay it forward to the local community by promoting learning that leads to success in K-12 education.

Joseph Stiles

Junior Joseph Stiles is a Chemical Engineering major who has a penchant for the structure of things. In the future, he wishes to attend a graduate school for his materials science interests.

Joseph Stiles BS ChE ’19 is co-captain of the USC Chem-E-Car team. Photo courtesy of Stiles

The Glendale, Calif. native works in Assistant Professor of Chemistry Brent Melot’s lab and will present his research poster titled “Correlating Structural Changes with Electrochemical Activity in the Defect Perovskite Type ReO3″ at AIChE 2017.

“I want to get a PhD [after undergraduate studies],” Stiles said. “So for that, it’s really nice to have some experience presenting about your research, so that when you talk to potential professors [you want to work with in grad school], you can actually talk to them about what it is you want to do.”

Stiles also serves as co-captain of the USC Chem-E-Car team and describes being a part of the team as similar to a hands-on lab experience.

To round out his busy schedule, Stiles is also working toward a Trumpet Performance minor from the USC Thornton School of Music. A trumpet musician of 11 years, he performs in the Concerto Chamber Orchestra.

About Chem-E-Car

During the conference, the 2017 Annual Student Conference Chem-E-Car Competition will take place on Sunday, October 29. The competition engages student teams that design and construct a car powered by a chemical energy source that can safely carry a specified weight over a specified distance and then stop.

The catch: the weight and distance aren’t announced until the competition begins and whoever comes closest to the distance (in either direction) wins.

The USC Chem-E-Car team placed third in this year’s regional competition, and thus qualified for nationals alongside 26 other teams. Joseph Stiles and Prin Harinsuta serve as co-captains. Chad Province participates as Electrical Team Lead and even taught himself how to build a circuit from watching videos on the Internet.

The team has invested 10 hours per week into the car’s design and performance since the second week of the Fall 2017 semester.

“Throughout the semester, you try a bunch of different weights to calibrate for the velocity of the car,” said Stiles. “You also try many different concentrations for your iodine clock reaction, which stops the car. Then when you get to the competition, you look at a graph you created and figure out the inputs you need.”

Best of luck at nationals, USC Chem-E-Car Team! Good luck, USC AIChE participants and presenters! Mork On.