Researchers in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering shine at 2017 AIChE Conference

2017 Aiche

In November, the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering was well represented at the annual American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Conference. In total, the department faculty presented more than 50 papers, and led or chaired more than 15 sessions. In addition, a total of 33 students presented 45 papers. Two students took home awards for their work.

Ravi Chawla, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Pushkar Lele’s research group, won the AIChE Division 15 (Food, Pharmaceutical & Bioengineering Division) Poster Award. Chawla’s poster, “Mechanical Force-Based Regulation of Protein Assemblies,” was selected as the best among the 54 entries in the competition.

Chawla’s poster (pictured below) showcased his recent work in the Lele lab studying the mechanisms by which mechanical forces modulate the self-assembly of protein complexes in bacteria. In the study, which was published in Scientific Reports, Chawla proposed and successfully tested a mathematical model that explained the remodeling of biomolecular motors in E. coli, following the detection of surfaces by individual cells. How bacteria detect surfaces remains a mystery and is of great interest since this ability promotes the formation of bacterial biofilms. Biofilms not only cause chronic infections, but also promote biofouling of industrial membranes and pipelines. Chawla’s work represents the first step in establishing plausible models to explain surface detection in bacteria.


Moonjoo Lee, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Hae-Kwon Jeong’s research group, won second place in the TED-Sep (separations division) competition. The competition is modeled after both TED Talks and the Shark Tank television program. Essentially, presenters have five minutes to pitch their ideas to a non-expert audience. Lee’s presentation, “Preparation of ZIF-8 Membranes Supported on Polymer Hollow Fibers Using Microwave-Assisted Seeding and Secondary Growth Method,” can be seen below.