Sunday, June 28, 2015

New Duke facility will advance education and research in engineering and physics

Duke University plans to build a $100-million, 85,000-square-foot facility to expand education and research programs in engineering and physics. Scheduled to open in 2018, the building will create a hub where engineering and physics faculty work together with graduate and undergraduate students to develop solutions to society’s greatest challenges, from making solar energy economical to engineering better medicines.

“This facility will make possible the best of Duke’s vision for teaching and learning: bringing together students from different fields of study to work collaboratively on projects that address the problems of our time,” says Duke President Richard Brodhead. “It will provide a physical home for Duke’s growing partnerships that link engineering with the sciences and liberal arts, helping our students develop the broad perspectives they need to become leaders and innovators.”

The new facility will be on Duke’s West Campus, between the Teer Engineering Building and the Physics Building. Current plans include approximately 25,000 square feet of educational space, teaching labs and classrooms shared between the Pratt School of Engineering and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences designed to facilitate team-based, experiential learning. There will also be a 5,000-square-foot, 150-seat auditorium, plus 40,000 square feet for engineering research and 15,000 square feet for physics research. The common space will support integrated science and engineering teaching and opportunities for undergraduate research. 

“The building will provide a literal and metaphorical bridge between engineering and the sciences, a place where the grand challenges of engineering meet the big questions of physics,” says Tom Katsouleas, Vinik Dean of Engineering, who worked closely with Trinity Dean Laurie Patton in developing the vision for the facility. “The new building will significantly enhance our ability to provide the kind of hands-on teaching connected to real societal issues that has become a signature of a Duke education, through initiatives such as the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars program.”

Pratt is one of the fastest-rising engineering schools in the nation. Graduate and undergraduate enrollment is up, the school’s faculty has grown by 20 percent over the past decade, and external research funding has more than doubled in that time.

“By providing much-needed space, the new facility will support the ambitious teaching and research agendas of our current faculty, and enable us to leverage the Vinik Grand Challenge Professorships to recruit new faculty who deepen our strengths,” Katsouleas says. “We’re also excited about the ways this space will help us forge new bonds with our colleagues in physics and the sciences, similar to the way the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine & Applied Sciences has strengthened the ties between engineering and medicine.”   
The inclusion of state-of-the-art space for applied physics research will not only enhance recruitment and retention of top faculty in that department but create a dynamic environment for educational and industry collaborations, says Dan Kiehart, dean of natural sciences for Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

“This building represents a significant and transformative investment in science and engineering at Duke,” Kiehart says. “Some of our top physicists are also engineering faculty, and our engineering and physics students share core classes, so it’s a very natural partnership. Co-locating the disciplines will dramatically expand the opportunities for joint research and the discovery-oriented educational experiences that are so important to prepare our students for leadership positions in academia and industry.”   

Fundraising for the facility is part of Duke Forward, the seven-year, university-wide campaign that aims to raise $3.25 billion by June 30, 2017. Every dollar donated to Duke's 10 schools and units, Duke Medicine, or university programs and initiatives counts toward the campaign.

Pending final approval from Duke’s Board of Trustees, groundbreaking for the new building will take place by late 2016.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Baxter & Woodman project wins prestigious national award

Baxter & Woodman’s Barium/Radium Removal Pretreatment System Project earned the prestigious Grand Award at the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) 2015 National Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) competition in Washington D.C..   As one of only eight Grand Award winners, the Baxter & Woodman project was also a finalist for the 2015 Grand Conceptor Award, signifying the year’s best overall engineering achievement. 

ACEC's annual Engineering Excellence Awards program honors the year's most innovative and outstanding engineering accomplishments. Projects throughout the world were evaluated by a panel of 25-30 judges based on their uniqueness and innovative applications; future value to the engineering profession; perception by the public; social, economic, and sustainable development considerations; complexity; and successful fulfillment of the client/owner's needs, including schedule and budget.

The project is a patent-pending Barium/Radium Removal Pretreatment System added to the Village of Gilberts, IL existing municipal ion exchange softener regeneration system. The Pretreatment System incorporates technologies not previously used at municipal water treatment plants and complies with new Illinois Environmental Protection Agency National Pollution Discharge Elimination System barium limits and Illinois Emergency Management Agency radium residual disposal regulations in a cost-effective manner. With the success in pioneering this new process, Baxter & Woodman and the Village have paved the way for other municipalities to consider this process as a viable cost-effective alternative to their traditional treatment methods.

Baxter & Woodman is a consulting engineering firm that specializes in municipal engineering, transportation services, water and wastewater management, construction services, and stormwater management. Based in Crystal Lake, IL, the firm has six locations in IL and WI. For more information, visit

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Leading woman Ohio University electrochemical engineer named 2015 Distinguished Professor

At Ohio University’s annual Master’s and Doctoral Commencement ceremony, Gerardine “Gerri” Botte, Russ Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was recognized as the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Professor award. “I am thrilled to receive this distinction and especially thankful to my peers who supported my nomination,” Botte said. “I’m truly excited that this recognition gives me the opportunity to select an undergraduate student annually to receive a year’s full scholarship, because I believe my role as a mentor of students is to provide opportunities. Nothing makes me happier than seeing sparks in a student’s eyes – a student excited about solving a real problem, Now, I have another resource to continue enabling opportunities and creating for good,” she added. The award, given to one individual annually, affords the recipient a lifetime designation, one semester of professional leave, and the opportunity to name one undergraduate student annually to receive a year’s full-tuition Distinguished Professor Scholarship.

Gerri Botte, a Russ Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology and director of the Russ College’s Center for Electrochemical Engineering (CEER), is known internationally for developing the electrochemical engineering “pee-to-power” process in which hydrogen can be created from human and animal wastewater for use in fuel cells with clean water as the only byproduct.

“Obviously, we’re extremely honored and happy to have one of our own in the Russ College named as Distinguished Professor – and very proud that this person is a woman, given our goal of inspiring young women to enroll in our programs,” said Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin. “Dr. Botte is close to a prodigy. At what is normally an early stage in her career, she has been involved in significant activities to recruit young women into STEM, and, phenomenally, is also performing world-class research in applying electrochemistry to wastewater treatment, alternative energy sources and sustainable manufacturing – while also being an outstanding mentor to undergraduates in both the classroom and research lab.”

Botte says her immediate future plans are to continue to grow CEER’s collaboration with industry and to bring another variable into her research mix: food supply. “I want to continue creating for good. I want to lead CEER in collaboration with other units on campus, external collaborators, and industry to solve our food, energy, and water challenges in a holistic way. I call this electro-FEW: electrochemical pathway for sustainable food, energy, and water,” Botte said. “We have a hypothesis, and we have a platform. We will prove those, and we will bring transformational solutions to the world.”

Founded by Botte in 2002 as a research lab, CEER now occupies a dedicated 20,000-square-foot facility with more than $10 million in state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure; researchers and students with specialized expertise in electrochemical engineering; and relationships with faculty, government labs and agencies, and other industry members. Under Botte’s leadership, in 2014, CEER received a National Science Foundation (NSF) award to establish an industry university cooperative research center in Athens, Ohio with partner site Washington University in St. Louis. Research at the new Center for Electrochemical Processes and Technology (CEProTECH) focuses on electrochemical alternatives to conventional chemical and biological processes, with the goal of enhancing advanced production capabilities, via a consortium model.

Soon after, the U.S. Department of Commerce and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) established the consortium to support, sustain, and enhance U.S. manufacturing capacity in the nation's chemical industry and allied sectors through innovative electrochemical processes.

Editor in-chief of the Journal of Applied Chemistry, Botte has authored 128 publications, including 20 patents and 29 pending patents. She has delivered more than 200 presentations at international conferences, and she is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the Electrochemical Society, and the World Technology Network.

The Distinguished Professor Award recognizes outstanding scholarly and creative accomplishments and is the highest permanent recognition attainable by faculty at Ohio University. Recipients must have attained tenure and completed a minimum of five years of service at Ohio University. The award, first given in 1959, is supported by an endowment provided by Edwin and Ruth Kennedy to the Baker Fund.

Recipients of the award present a lecture on a topic of their selection during the annual Distinguished Professor reception and lecture, held in the winter following their conferral. For more information about past honorees, the nomination process, and to view videos of the receptions and lectures from previous recipients, visit