Chemical engineering graduate student Pham awarded best paper for sustainable engineering

Viet Pham with his professors

Viet Pham, a graduate student in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, has been named one of two winners of the 2011 Sustainable Engineering Forum Best Student Paper Award, presented by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

The paper for which Pham has been recognized is co-authored by Professors Mark Holtzapple and Mahmoud El-Halwagi, also in the chemical engineering department, and resulted in the article “Techno-Economic Analysis of Biomass to Fuel via the MixAlco Process.” That article appears in the “Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology."

Pham’s paper details an integrated view for the synthesis, simulation, design and economic analysis for a process that converts various types of biomass into mixed alcohols that can be used directly as biofuels or converted to liquid transportation fuels.

“It has been my pleasure to work with Viet Pham on techno-economic evaluations of the carboxylate platform, a promising ‘biorefinery’ that converts biomass to fuels and chemicals,” Holtzapple noted. “Viet exhibited a great deal of knowledge, competence, professionalism, dedication, and independence that I rarely see in students. These traits clearly contributed to his winning the 2011 AIChE Sustainable Engineering Forum Best Student Paper Award.”

Pham is advised by El-Halwagi, who is holder of the McFerrin Professorship and internationally known for his pioneering contributions in the fields of sustainable design and process integration. Last year, another of El-Halwagi’s doctoral students was recognized with the award in its first year of existence.

“This is a highly deserved award; Viet is a superb doctoral student and is one of the best chemical engineers I have seen,” El-Halwagi said. “Viet’s research is on the cutting edge of using chemical engineering fundamentals in a unique, innovative and rigorous manner to solve a pressing problem in the area of sustainable design. He is really making a difference.”

“Throughout the course of his work, Viet developed and applied various state-of-the-art tools in process development; employed up-to-date simulation and economic analyzing software; and searched for most updated data in biofuel industry,” El-Halwagi noted. “Dr. Holtzapple has provided tremendous guidance throughout the work and has generously shared his unique experience in the process he has pioneered.”

Pham will be formally honored in a special ceremony at the AIChE Annual Meeting in October in Minneapolis where he is scheduled to be presented his award.