Chemical and life science engineering students receive awards from the 2023 AIChE Annual Student Conference

Out of the 16 VCU Engineering students who attended the conference, four presented their research and two brought home awards.

Students standing next to the AIChE sign at the annual conference in Orlando

Earlier this month, 16 Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering (CLSE) students attended the 2023 student conference for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in Orlando, Florida.

“The three-day event featured workshops on career discovery, research presentations, a career fair, competitions and networking for almost 2,000 undergraduate students in chemical engineering,” CLSE lab instructor, Andrew Kuhn, said. “VCU Engineering hosted a hospitality suite and a booth at the career fair. Our students got to experience speeches from experienced chemical engineers in the industry with a focus on leadership and early career development.”

Brianna Wahl (left) and Ethan Huchler (right) receive their awards.
Brianna Wahl (left) and Ethan Huchler (right) receive their awards.

Brianna Wahl, a sophomore in CLSE, was awarded AIChE's First Year Student Recognition Award and Ethan Huchler, a junior in CLSE, was awarded the Donald F. Othmer Second Year Student Academic Excellence Award.

“For me, the conference was a chance to get exposure in the chemical engineering industry,” Huchler said. “It was my first time getting to interact and talk to other chemical engineers from across the country and attend workshops to learn more about the field of work. My biggest takeaway from the conference was getting the first glimpse as to what my future career as a chemical engineer could look like.”

In addition to these awards, four students presented their research under CLSE faculty members: assistant professor Charles McGill, Ph.D. and assistant professor Leah Spangler, Ph.D.

Under McGill, CLSE students Abdullah Alqallaf and Elijah Kaplowitz presented posters showing their work. Alqallaf’s research focuses on developing models to predict chemical properties, like vapor-liquid equilibrium, by forcing thermodynamic consistency utilizing machine learning. Kaplowitz presented his research developing models to explore machine learning models for predicting vapor pressure.

Alqallaf presenting his research
Alqallaf presenting his research.
Kaplowitz presenting his research
Kaplowitz presenting his research.

Under Spangler, CLSE students Aubrey Carey and Viviane Payne also presented posters highlighting their research. Carey’s poster showed her work investigating intrinsic fluorescence mechanisms in amyloid fibers, while Payne’s research analyzes the metal binding strength of certain mutants of the S824 (De Novo Protein) as capping ligands for quantum dots biosynthesis.

Carey presenting her research
Carey presenting her research.
Payne presenting her research
Payne presenting her research.

For many of our students, this was their first conference, gaining incredibly useful insight into the world of chemical engineering and the process of networking with engineering professionals.

"I really enjoyed the conference because it wasn't just networking between my peers and other undergraduates,” one student said. “I got to meet professors from other universities who gave me advice from what they have learned in their academic careers. Additionally, the networking felt genuine, like I could reach out to them anytime without feeling awkward about it."

The CLSE department’s presence at the 2023 AIChE Annual Student Conference, the awards won by Wahl and Huchler and the research presented by CLSE students all emphasize the continued innovation and standard of excellence held at the VCU College of Engineering.