image of unknown smoke making a skull head coming from a toaster

We spend most of our lives inside, where air quality has received little scrutiny.

Illustration by Daniel Savage
  The Hidden Air Pollution In Our Homes
From The New Yorker by Nicola Twilley April 1, 2019

Food magazines typically celebrate Thanksgiving in mid-July, bronzing turkeys and crimping piecrust four months in advance. By that time last year, Marina Vance, an environmental engineer at the University of Colorado Boulder, had already prepared two full Thanksgiving dinners for more than a dozen people. Vance studies air quality, and, last June, she was one of two scientists in charge of Homechem, a four-week orgy of cooking, cleaning, and emissions measurement, which brought sixty scientists and four and a half million dollars’ worth of high-tech instrumentation to a ranch house on the engineering campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The two Thanksgiving dinners were the climax of the project and represented what Vance called a “worst-case scenario.” She suspected that the Pilgrims’ harvest celebration, as it is observed in twenty-first-century America, qualified as an airborne toxic event.  Read more
photo of grad student melanie standing by her poster  

Melanie Merrick Receives Department Research Poster Award


Melanie Merrick receives the UT Austin McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Research Award for Best Chemical Engineering Research Poster at the Graduate and Industry Networking GAIN 2018 event.

photo of grad student melanie standing by her poster  

Melanie Merrick Places 2nd in the Environmental and Sustainability Poster Category at UT Energy Week 2018


Melanie Merrick places 2nd in the Environmental and Sustainability Poster Category at UT Energy Week 2018.

photo of Alon standing and smiling at camera  

Alon Y. Kirschner Receives the Elias Klein Travel Supplement from the North American Membrane Society (NAMS) for the 2017 International Congress on Membranes (ICOM).
Posted 8/30/17

The Elias Klein Founders' Travel Supplement program supports students needing limited financial assistance and will provide up to $500 in reimbursement for reasonable expenses (e.g. travel cost, registration, workshops) for attending ICOM 2017 to present their research (oral or poster presentation). This award program is named in honor of Elias Klein, whose vision and spirit guided the founding of NAMS in 1985. http://www.membranes.org/nams_klein.htm

photo of Alon and Shicahao.  

Alon Kirschner and Shichao He Named TAs of the Year
From McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Web Site
Posted 8/30/17

Alon Kirschner and Shichao He have been named the TAs of the Year for their work in ChE 317 Intro to Chemical Engineering Analysis and ChE 253M Measurement, Control and Data Analysis Lab, respectively.


Both Kirschner and He will each be awarded the Paige H. and J. Jeff Weidner Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Chemical Engineering worth $3,500.


In the evaluation of Kirschner’s performance, the students described him as encouraging, fair, caring and great at conveying information.


“Alon’s exemplary TA service in 317 was critical to getting the students off to a solid start in their chemical engineering careers,” Dr. Benny Freeman, ChE 317 course instructor, said. ”The students bonded with Alon and viewed him as a role model based on his personal enthusiasm, brilliant lecturing and patient mentoring.


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A photo of Steve Orwick receiving his 30 year service award from the Dean
Steve Orwick Receiving his 30 year service award.

Steve Orwick receives 30 year service award from The University of Texas at Austin
Posted 5-17-17

Congratulations to Steve Orwick for 30 years of devoted service at the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources.  Steve will be retiring soon and we will miss his experience and willingness to help all at CEER. 


A photo of Dr. Hildebrandt and a student working in the lab.  

Lea Hildebrandt Ruiz Honored by National Science Foundation with Early CAREER Award
From McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Web Site
Posted 4-7-17

More than three million people die prematurely every year by breathing air pollution in the form of ozone and outdoor particulate matter. Texas ChE Assistant Professor Lea Hildebrandt Ruiz and her research team want to improve this statistic through understanding how pollutants form in our atmosphere, in order to devise a way to reduce pollutant levels and protect human health.

The team’s research efforts were recently rewarded when the National Science Foundation named Hildebrandt Ruiz as a recipient of the Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER award) for her project “Air-Quality Effects of Atmospheric Chlorine Chemistry.” The award provides more than $620K in NSF funding for the project.


The project includes laboratory experiments, ambient measurements and modeling studies to investigate the role of chlorine chemistry in the formation of particulate matter and ozone in ambient air, air that is not contaminated by air-borne pollutants. Results from this can be used in air quality models to make more informed decisions about environmental policies, intending to advance the understanding of atmospheric chemistry and pollutants that are detrimental to human health.


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photo of Dr. David Allen  

Professor, Five Alumni Elected to National Academy of Engineering
From Cockrell School of Engineering Web Site
Posted 2-8-17

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced today that David T. Allen, professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas of Austin, along with five Cockrell School of Engineering alumni, have been elected to the prestigious academy.


Election to the academy is among the highest professional distinctions bestowed upon an engineer. Membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research and practice, including pioneering new and developing fields of technology and making major advancements in the engineering field and profession. In all, 84 new members and 22 foreign members joined the NAE in 2017.


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photo of Dr. Freeman and Jovan. Jovan is holding his AIChe Award.  

Jovan Kamcev Wins 2016 AIChE Graduate Student Research Award
From Membrane Research Web Site
Posted 12-6-16

Jovan Kamcev has been awarded the 2016 AIChE Separations Division Graduate Student Research Award in Separations: Membrane-Based Separations, established to recognize outstanding graduate student research in this area. He is pictured here with Profesor Benny D. Freeman.







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Head shot of graduate student Jovan Kamcev, Paper of the Year award winner  

Jovan Kamcev Wins Graduate Student Paper of the Year
From McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Web Site
Posted 8-29-16

Jovan Kamcev Wins Paper of the Year


Jovan Kamcev has been awarded the Graduate Student Paper of the Year Award and the Marion Johnson South Texas Section Society of Plastics Engineers Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Chemical Engineering worth $4,000, for his paper entitled “Partitioning of mobile ions between ion exchange polymers and aqueous salt solutions: Importance of counter-ion condensation” published in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics in January 2016.





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Alumnus Zachary Smith poses next to a hood in the lab

Alumnus Joins MIT Chemical Engineering Faculty
From McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Web Site
Posted 6-7-16

Zach Smith (Texas ChE Ph.D. ’14) has accepted an offer to join MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering as an assistant professor. His faculty appointment will begin Jan. 1, 2017.

Smith completed his graduate training at Texas ChE with Professors Benny Freeman and Don Paul, developing structure and property relationships for gas diffusion and sorption in polyimides, perfluoropolymers, and related materials. His postdoctoral training, under the guidance of Professor Jeffrey Long at the University of California Berkeley, focuses on designing coordination solids (i.e., metal-organic frameworks) for selective adsorption-based separations.

“Professor Paul and I are very pleased to see our former student, Zach Smith, get this fantastic opportunity,” Dr. Freeman said. “It was clear from the beginning that Zach was very special and would go far. We could not be more proud of Zach and his outstanding accomplishments to date, and we look forward to watching him grow his own research program and take his place among the leaders in this field.”

Smith’s research at MIT will focus on designing the next generation of polymers and porous materials needed to replace energy-inefficient and environmentally harmful separations currently practiced in industry today.