During early September Professors Carol Hall and Phil Westmoreland made major invited presentations at Vanderbilt University and at the 21st International Congress of Chemical and Process Engineering (CHISA), respectively. CHISA is organized by the European Federation of Chemical Engineering.
Dr. Hall gave the 2014 John R. and Donna S. Hall (no relation) Lecture at the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering. Established in 2002, the lecture series "allows Vanderbilt engineering students to hear renowned engineers from universities and agencies address engineering topics of particular interests."
In her talk, "A Computational Study of the Thermodynamic and Kinetic Origins of Alzheimer's and Related Diseases, Dr. Hall described current research thinking about chemical structures found in the brain that contribute to neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and prion diseases. She also described her research, which focuses on applying statistical thermodynamics and molecular-level computer simulation to topics involving macromolecules or complex fluids, and how that's being used to find ways the neurodegenerative diseases might be prevented or slowed in their progression.
In his plenary keynote lecture, "Making Bio-oils: A Microcosm of the Opportunities and Challenges for a Golden Age of ChE," Dr. Westmoreland drew on results from his research on making oil from woody biomass to frame an optimistic picture of the profession's future (his group has found key elementary reactions that explain the pyrolysis kinetics involved) in a coming "golden age." He noted that several factors in two previous golden ages for our profession are evident today.
The first age, 1915 - 1929, saw a growing demand for petroleum-based fuels, and emergence of the modern profession through the unit operations concept. In the 15 years after World War II, high demand for petroleum products spurred the second golden age.
Contributing factors to the golden age Professor Westmoreland sees developing today include new sources for fuel and chemicals such as hydrofracking and biomass, and applied chemical biology that's led to new medicines and medical tools. Dramatic advances in computers have yielded 3-D printing and manufacturing of ultra-small computer chips. He also noted that chemical engineers are well prepared to help determine the best technological strategies to limit future climate change.
Requests to make invited presentations are usually extended to individuals who are widely respected for accomplishments in their field of expertise.
Congratulations to Professors Hall and Westmoreland for these recognitions!