To our CHBE students, alumni and friends,
2015 has been a very eventful year for our Department. At the 102nd Commencement back in May, 59 students graduated with Bachelor's degrees (a 15% increase from the previous year), making it the most popular Engineering major. 15 graduate students received PhD degrees (a 35% increase), making it the most popular Engineering doctoral degree last year!
Last Fall, 84 students took sophomore-level CHBE301 "Chemical Engineering Fundamentals." Our graduate programs saw entering classes of 15 first-year MCHE/MS students and 16 first-year PhD students. Five graduate students received prestigious fellowships, including two from NSF and one from the Coast Guard. Also, there are over 16 post-doctoral researchers and research scientists in CHBE, which speaks to the vibrancy of our Department's research programs.
Our Department continues to grow in the faculty ranks. Dr. Abbas Firoozabadi (a member of the National Academy of Engineering) joined this Spring as Distinguished Visiting Professor. Drs. Marya Cokar and Xiankuan Zhang (SABIC, Chief Scientist) joined last Fall to teach courses in transport and industrial chemical processes, respectively. Most excitingly, Professor Fred C. MacKintosh (a world-renowned expert in soft matter physics, complex fluids, and biopolymers) will be joining our Department as the Abercrombie Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in July 2016.
I am very proud that our professors are getting recognized for their teaching. Dr. Biswal received a 2015 George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching; Drs. Nagrath and Chapman were recognized as finalists. Our undergraduates voted Dr. Vargas as their "Favorite Faculty" last year. Also, Dr. Vargas was a finalist for the Sophia Meyer Farb Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Teaching.
Our faculty continues to bring recognition to CHBE and Rice through research and service to our profession. Dr. Verduzco received the 2015 Most Promising Engineer/Scientist Award from the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC). Dr. Gonzalez was named Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology, and appointed to Science Magazine's Board of Reviewing Editors. Dr. Pasquali was named A. J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, one of a handful of Chaired Professorships at Rice. Drs. Mikos and Kolomeisky were elected Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors and American Physical Society, respectively. I myself received the 2015 Excellence in Applied Catalysis Award from North American Catalysis Society/Southwest Catalysis Society. Several CHBE faculty members are important contributors to the founding of the new NSF ERC "Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment" at Rice (and in partnership with UTEP, ASU, and Yale). Our staff members are some of the hardest-working folks on campus, and our very own Karen Shelton received the 2015 Hardy M. Bourland Staff Award for Distinguished Service from School of Engineering.
It is so wonderful to share that our generous alumni made notable commitments to our students last year. There now exists the Sunit Patel '85 Endowed Fellowship for support of Chemical and Biomolecular engineering graduate students; the Mike and Donna Kidwell Gibson Fellowship Fund for meritorious performance at the undergraduate/graduate levels; and the William W. Akers Endowed Engineering Scholarship for engineering undergraduate students (Dr. Akers is professor emeritus of our Department).
And one more thing… Announced last Fall, the University will grow our Department by up to eight tenure/tenure-track faculty members, as part of the larger strategic plan of expanding and strengthening Rice's efforts in molecular nanotechnology. We are all very excited for the things to come!
A final note: our Department will host a reception on Sunday night (November 13, 2016) at the AIChE 2016 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA. My faculty and I look forward to seeing you there.
All the best,