Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Official blog of the Lehigh University Chemical Engineers


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Also Finals Week

Hello all, it’s time to update you on my finals week progression. For this semester I only have two finals, one being Mass Transfer and the other being Reactor Design. Fortunately, both of them were pretty spread out. I was able to have time to study for both of exam without having to worry too much about the time crunch. However, the finals for both exams comprises 40% of your final grade. That’s right, 40%. So it’s either make it or break it. For Mass Transfer I had three midterms, in which I did fine for except one of them. So this final really determines my fate in that class. I took the Mass Transfer Exam last Friday and came out feeling stupefied. I didn’t have enough time to solve all of the problems! I spent too much on one part of the problem in which I did mostly wrong. I think I did a good enough job throughout the course that I’ll pass. As you know, Mass Transfer is not offered in the summer at Lehigh and it’s a prerequisite to all of the higher level Chemical Engineering courses. Therefore, anyone who did not pass or get at lease a C- in this class would mean that they would either have to stay an extra year or possibly find another school that offers Mass Transfer in the summer.

I got three days between my Mass Transfer and Reactor Design exam, which is pretty sweet because I’ll have the time to look over material for reactor design. However, I have a 15 page essay dew two days before the Reactor Design final. I spent quite a lot of time finishing that. I ended up pulling an all nighter to finish my essay. When I got out of the library it was 7am and it was bright outside. The birds were singing and it was a sunny day. I crashed on my bed and didn’t wake up til mid afternoon. I felt refreshed and begin my study for Reactor Design Final along with the rest of kids in a packed library. When I get tired late at night I usually go to Saxbys for coffee. For those of you not familiar with saxbys, it’s a coffee shop right across from the bookstore. It’s super close and convenient. So I have been drinking lots of coffee; I don’t think I’ve ever drank this much coffee before.

The Reactor Design final is tomorrow at 8am. It’s going to be a lot different from the Mass Transfer final because this one is a lot of thinking and explaining, while the Mass Transfer final was lot of calculation and math. Reactor Design class requires tremendous amount of understanding of the material. In order to do well, you also have to be able to integrate the knowledge together in evaluating a problem. This is essentially what’s going to happen on my final; the professor is going to throw me overarching questions and expect me to weave the scattering knowledge together. The exam shouldn’t be too bad once you have a decent understanding of the course. After I took care of the final for Reactor Design, I’m going to have one last thing to do before peace out at Lehigh for my junior year. I just remembered that I have the Physical Chemistry Lab report due on May 7th. Once that’s completed I’ll finally able to go home.

I’m going to go study some more now. Below is a fun video of how to survive the finals. Enjoy.


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Finals Week

The trees and flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping… meanwhile I, along with the rest of campus, am cooped up in various nooks and crannies around Lehigh studying for our dreaded finals. Thankfully, my finals have been fairly spread out and I’ve had at least one if not two days between all of my exams. I had BIOS the first day of exams, then Organic Chem 2 on Thursday, and just had ECE yesterday. They all went pretty well and I feel like I understand all the questions and concepts. With three down, I only have one final to go. Unfortunately, that final happens to be in Thermodynamics which is a very difficult class and there are a bunch of concepts that I have to be able to apply to problems. Right now I’m taking a break from my Thermo book to clear my head and take a little break. For me, I find my most effective study method is to find a quiet room with comfortable chairs and windows. It’s weird but I feel like I need to be able to look outside while studying, maybe to be able to keep track of time. Through the last couple finals weeks, I’ve also discovered it is beneficial to take some breaks. I’ll take twenty minutes or so and watch some sports highlights from the day before or go for a walk. If I just sit and stare at study material for hours on end it all runs together and I lose the ability to focus. Obviously, everybody studies differently and has their own method to preparing for exams. People all have their favorite study spot that they believe no one else knows about, I too have a few secret spots that I cannot divulge on this forum. It’s not uncommon to walk by a room or in the library and see students taking a nap or “resting my eyes” like a prefer to say. Finals week is stressful and paramount to successful grades in classes but it will eventually end, as all things do.

Honestly, I feel like finals are, for the most part, easier than normal exams in a course. The toughest part about finals is often the buildup and psyching yourself out. Students get so worked up and nervous that they panic and put too much pressure on themselves. Although finals are worth a lot of points, professors aren’t out to trick us. They want to test the main points of the course and obtain an overall exam for determining how well students understand concepts. For this reason, final exam questions often don’t go into much detail and focus on important ideas rather than minute details. If students attend class the whole semester and do the homework, there is no reason they shouldn’t be completely capable of solving any problems. Professors want to test the most important applications of the class because they will be used in a professional field. For me, I think the actual exams aren’t the most challenging part of finals, it’s the mental battle. It’s difficult to assure oneself that they are prepared for a final and are capable of doing well. Right now I’m trying to reconcile all this Thermo information. I know it all and am able to use it, but at the same time feel like I won’t be able to use it on the final. I feel like this inward battle plagues many students, and if they can overcome the anxiety finals really wouldn’t be too bad. I should really get back to studying now though, my twenty or so minute break is over. After my final tomorrow, I’m planning on writing a “year in review” post. Until then, enjoy these finals memes…

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Safety First

I just remembered that we did a online safety training program for my Reactor Design class (ChE 211). It reminded me of how important safety is and how it is sometimes under-looked. So for this assignment for Reactor Design we basically had to go to a designated online course that teaches you all the safety precautions through words and videos. At the end, you had to take a quiz and hopefully you’ll pass. One neat thing other than the safety knowledge was that it gives you a certificate stating that you have completed the training once you passed the quiz. This reminded me how Infineum was really strict about safety. Being safe was the companies culture and tradition. Rewards were given out at the end of year for things such as accident-free or injury-free year. It served as a incentive to act responsibly and put safety first before whatever you do.

Infineum put tremendous effort on emphasizing safety. For example, monthly safety meetings were carried out and everyone attends. There were also something called “B-Bop”. “B-Bops” were conducted quarterly. It consists of spotting your colleague when they were at work, and filled out what they did do safely and not safely. Things like whatever they were wearing proper protecting equipment were recorded. Other details such as work space violations and escaping route were also noted. It helped to promote the healthy environment in which colleagues all look after one another. Infineum has successfully conditioned me into looking at safety issue of all things I touch. It grows on me as well; I began to spend more time thinking about safety outside of work as well. It is important to think twice before we act no matter where we go and what we do. I not only begin to worry about my own safety, I also start to look out for the colleagues working around me.  One really neat culture that has developed in Infineum was that the colleagues would always look after you to make sure everything was done safely.

Regardless what industry I join, it is always beneficial to stand by safety rules and it is good for me as well as the others.

Safety_path-to-perfect-safety

 


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Skills to bring back to Rot.2

As excited I am to return to Infineum for rotation, I’ve learned life skills that will help me to contribute even more to the company when I return as a Co-op intern this summer. Through working with my lab buddy and my boss, I’ve learned many necessary tools. At this moment I don’t know what my assignment is going to be and who my boss is going to be yet. But I’ll update y’all once I found out.

H_302832Throughout working with lab equipment, I have developed problem solving skills. The more issues I encounter with equipment, the further I expand these skills. During one of the studies, it turned out that the predetermined filtration column could not adequately filter out the undesired compound out of the solution. Hence, my boss and I experimented with the available filtration setup options. There were four different options, each varying in combinations of column length and size, resulting in different filtration qualities. I ran the samples through each column and collected the filtrates. To determine the quality of the filtration, I sent the filtrates through analytical equipment and see which one matches the best with our expected results. Finally, the crisis was solved; I have chosen the most desirable filtration option.

However, another problem rose up with excessive sediment congesting the column. I would either have to wait till eternity for the liquid to pass through or I must think of another way. After consulting with my colleagues, I borrowed one of my co-workers’ invention. It involved gently applying nitrogen gas with a self-made adapter on top of the column to create pressure to push the liquid through. However, I improved upon his little adapter invention because I had to physically stand there and hold the adapter the entire time. I put together a few keg clamps so it supports itself along with the column. It seemed be quite an eventful experience, but I was able to successful obtain the results at the end.

Another major problem I encountered was that the titration equipment was not cooperating with me; it appeared to be generating random curves on the graph. After carefully reviewing the situation, I concluded that the titrant was contaminated. However, I had only been exposed to this equipment once before, but I had a general knowledge of the titrating concept. Relying on my memory and common sense, I flushed out the old contaminated system entirely and started everything afresh. I began preparing fresh titrants and hooking up tubes to their correct position in the system. Fortunately, the titration equipment is functioning again. I also became a certified titration operator, and later I became certified trainee in standard operating procedures for other equipment as well. This allows me to include the equipment in my resume which will help me in the future when recruiting with other company in similar industries.

It’s these the problem solving thinking that helped me to move on. The issue is going to be different each time. But by applying the same reasoning and analytical approach, the problem can be solved more easily. I think I still have got a little bit of that in me when I return. However, there’s still a lot to work on and many areas to get better at for me.

 


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Returning for Co-op Rotation 2

Infineum-Colour-Logo_SMALL

 

 

 

 

 

Hello all! So for this summer I’m going to be returning to Infineum for my second rotation. The Co-op program typically requires the student to return to the company after the completion of the first rotation the fall of previous year. If you worked hard enough and the company likes you, they’ll send out a return offer for the second rotation. However, it not always guaranteed that the company will extend an return for the second rotation. The chances of not getting an offer is relatively low. I think all of my friends got return offers which is really good! I heard that you would have to mess up really hard to be rejected. For example, showing up to work consistently late or not showing up at all could cause you to be turned down. You should also not try to show up to work drunk or any other sort of  intoxication. So if you have a little of bit of common sense, you should be okay. A turn down rarely happen.

On the other hand, if you have the power to turn the return offer down as well. Maybe for some reason you really disliked the company or decide that it’s not the best way to prepare you for the future. You can choose to say no. Some people may decided that a internship is not what suit them the best and choose to do research instead. In other words, it’s really flexible of what you wanted to do. However, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind when you make your decisions. You have to remember that whatever you do, you represent Lehigh. So make sure to be respectful to the HR and other related officials.

I’m really happy that Infineum asked me to come back, and I really like that place. It turns out that I’ll be returning to the R&D department again for this summer. I’m excited to reunion with my colleagues and work with them again. The company has two locations in the state of New Jersey. The R&D location is known as LBTC; it stands for Linden Business and Technology Center. The other location is the Bayway Refinery. The refinery location focuses more on the production and engineering aspect of the business, which is a lot more fast paced. I really look forward to joining the R&D team again and hopefully I’m able to make as much impact as my first rotation.


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It’s All in the Name

Big news came out of the ChemE program at Lehigh this week. The official name of the department has been changed to “Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering”. Obviously, this is a very important for the school and program, and speaks to the changes that are occurring currently in the field of chemical engineering. Here is an excerpt from an email from the head of the department,

“As you all know, the Chemical engineering profession has been greatly influenced by the progress and growing importance of the biological sciences within the core of Chemical Engineering. This is reflected also in the fact that ABET has been requiring a biology class for CHE majors since 2004. Additionally, our graduates are increasingly hired by pharmaceutical and biomedical/biochemical companies and routinely require use of and expertise in biomolecular sciences. Indeed, chemical engineers are devoted to accomplishing “molecular transformations” and these naturally extend to “biomolecular transformation” as well.  The importance of the biomolecular sciences is also reflected in our faculty whose research profiles are increasingly focusing on biomolecular research problems and grand challenges.”

biomolecular

Recently, there has been a real surge toward biology in the field of chemical engineering. With advances in technology and understanding the world, scientists and researchers must inherently adapt to face new problems presented to them. The biomedical sector has been rapidly growing the past few years. Pharmaceutical and biochemical companies are quickly expanding and constantly producing products, vaccines, and medicines that improve the well-being of humans. It’s great that Lehigh is also adapting the professional landscape of chemical engineering because it will ultimately benefit the professors and students. Nearly all of the recently hired professors concentrate their research on biological applications. Hopefully, the name change will help professors receive more national recognition and be able to make influential discoveries. Check out the link here:  http://www.che.lehigh.edu/blog/faculty/

In regard to the students, the department adapting its focus will help us students be more prepared for a career in the field. This will help when applying for jobs or graduate school. Companies or grad programs want students that are relevant to the current landscape and have a strong foundation of chemical engineering. We talked about an interesting topic in ChE 179 last week related to chemical engineering education. An article in the latest edition of AIChE talked about how well chemical engineering students were prepared for the workplace. Like Lehigh, many schools across the country are shifting focus to biological applications and many new professors earn their doctorate in bio topics. The article questioned if students were not receiving an adequate basis of knowledge for traditional chemical engineering ideas such as unit operations and catalysis. Several different companies were interviewed about what was most important for them, and all except a pharmaceutical firm ranked biological sciences low in importance. The article seemed quite biased though, and only focused on traditional sectors. In any case, I’m excited to be in the center of such an interesting time in the field of chemical engineering. Coincidentally, my research this summer will be heavily focused on biology, namely cellular engineering. I’m looking forward to hearing what students from other parts of the country and professors at UMass think about this topic.


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Residue Curves Using Aspen

In an earlier post I discussed about the how choosing the correct property package for Aspen is crucial to the meaningfulness of the result. In the post, I would like to talk about how the correct property package can impact the residue curves. If you would like to see how it affects the prediction for azeoptrope, please click here.

There are numerous property packages in Aspen. To name a few, Chao-Seader, Wilson, LHHW, Uniquac, Unifac, and Redlich-Kwong are all commonly used. However, each of them serves as the model for the specifications that follows. A residue curves describes the change of the composition of the liquid phase of a chemical mixture during continuous evaporation at the condition of Vapor-Liquid equilirium.

In this example, we  try to study the residue curves of a three component system: Water, Methanol, and Methyl Acetate. Wilson was chosen as the first property package. Below is the resulting graph.

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As you see in the bottom left corner, Wilson package is unable to predict the 2 liquid interfaces between Water and Methyl Acetate. Next, we studied the property package Unifac. The result is shown below. As you can see also in the bottom left corner, Unifac is able to successfully predict the 2 liquid phases. Now that we have decided on which property package to use, we can proceed to flow-sheeting and work on other specifications.

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