Message from the Chairman

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Annual Report

July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1998

Department of Chemical Engineering

University of South Carolina

Columbia, SC 29208

Table of Contents

Message from the Chairman

To the alumni and friends of Chemical Engineering at USC:

This Annual Report includes exciting information about our outstanding students, faculty, and staff. It is with pleasure that I report to you that 91% (28 out of 31) of our graduating seniors passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination. We are thrilled that most of our graduating seniors took the FE exam and passed. It is also a exciting for me to report that Elizabeth Endler was named an NSF Graduate Fellowship recipient and a Tau Beta Phi winner. She brings great honor to herself and our department by winning these fellowships. Several other undergraduates received recognition for their outstanding performance as presented below in out "Highlights of the Year" section of this report. I am also pleased that we had a significant number of our undergraduate students working as coops this past year. We had 12 students during the fall and 14 students during the spring. We also had several graduate students work as graduate level coops this past year.

Our graduate students also brought honor to themselves and our department. For example, Gowri Nagarajan received the university wide Dean's Award for his outstanding research. Also, Brad Johnson won first place and $1,000 in the engineering division for his presentation at the annual USC graduate student day. Several other graduate students were also honored.

Drs. Michael A. Amiridis and Dr. John W. Van Zee received funding for two Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) sites for our department. We are the only department in the country to have two of these sites. More details about these sites are included in this report.

Our staff has continued to do an outstanding job. We hired four new staff members to help keep up with all of the activity going on in the department. More information is included inside about the new staff members.

We would like to thank all of our alumni and friends for their support. I would like to thank in particular Mr. Larry Nunnery who this year endowed a full undergraduate scholarship in Dr. Joseph Gibbons’ name. Larry is committed to helping us grow and flourish.

We encourage all alumni, industrial friends, and interested students and parents everywhere to visit the department of Chemical Engineering to see the progress first-hand, or visit our Web site under the college of Engineering ( We are certain that you will be pleased with what you see. Please send me your comments and suggestions.

Ralph E. White

Professor and Chairman

Westinghouse Distinguished Scientist

I. Mission

The mission of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of South Carolina is to develop high quality chemical engineers by continuously improving its undergraduate and graduate programs, to conduct world-class research and support innovative teaching, to provide an environment for professional development, and to be an effective resource for industry, government, and academia.

II. Highlights of the Year
Undergraduate Program

Our graduate and undergraduate students continue to win important local and national awards, continuing a trend, which started over ten years ago (see table below). This past year, Elizabeth E. Endler received a NSF Fellowship and the Tau Beta Pi Fellowship No. 592. She competed against thousands of highly qualified applicants for her NSF Fellowship. Also, she competed against 220 Tau Beta Pi applicants out of whom 35 were selected for fellowships or recognition. Elizabeth continues a distinguished list of NSF Fellowship recipients, as shown below.


NSF Graduate Research Fellowship


Elizabeth E. Endler


Jennifer Wu


Heather Agler


Melanie L. Turkett


Richard Lawson


Sandra L. Roebuck


William Haulbrook


Bruce Drake


Steven McCluney

Grant Cauthen, an undergraduate ChE student, was this year's winner of the Swanger Award, which is given for exemplary leadership and for making a significant contribution to the University Community. He was also selected as the Omicron Delta Kappa Province Leader of the Year.

Caroline Parler received the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and she was named the 1997 Homecoming Queen for USC. She is a member of the USC Dance Company and the USC Honors College. She is in the Chi Omega Sorority, and works with Professor Michael Amiridis. Caroline maintained a 4.0 throughout her first two years at USC. Caroline also was

the winner of the Othmer Academic Excellent Award from American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). This is presented to one national student member in each student chapter who has attained the highest GPA during their freshman and sophomore years.

Gita Chakrabarti was named a winner of a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship. Gita also received the John Newman Outstanding Volunteer Award and the Caroliniana Award. As president of the AIChE student chapter, Gita was instrumental in getting 15 ChE undergraduate students to sign up for the FE Exam during the Fall 1997 semester. These students took and passed the FE Exam giving the Department a 100% pass rate for the Fall 1997 semester. During the spring semester of 1998, 16 students took the FE Exam with 13 students passing. There was an 81% pass rate for the Spring FE Exam. The overall pass rate for the academic year is 91%.

Several other Chemical engineering students are excelling in academics and leadership roles. Aimee Frye received an Eastman Scholar Award. Jess Jur was named the Outstanding New Student Leader at USC. Moraima Agosto and Thomas Wideman received a Minority Leadership Award. Jesse Ehrenclou received the Carolina Eastman Undergraduate Scholarship.

The AIChE Student Chapter, advised by Professor John Weidner, attended the Southern Regional AIChE conference in Orlando, Florida, this past April. The University of Florida hosted this conference. Our students participated enthusiastically. James Sharpe who worked for Professor Michael Matthews received third place and $250 in the paper competition for his research entitled "The Use of Ambient Pressure Stream in the Extraction of Pure Hydrogen from solid Hydrides for use in PEM Fuel Cells." The 1999 regional conference will be held here in Columbia! We again commend John and the AIChE Chapter for representing USC in such an outstanding manner. We hope that our alumni and our industrial friends will help us to put on the best regional conference ever.

Graduate Program

The 1997-98 year has been a great one for the Graduate Program in Chemical Engineering. Not only did we have a strong recruiting season, but we also graduated several Ph.D. students. Our output of graduates is finally starting to match our input of new students.

Recruiting: We received a total of 129 applications for admission in fall 1998, including 85 for the PhD program. We expect 13 new students to enter for fall 1998 (11 PhD, 2 ME/MS). These are top students with GRE scores (math + verbal) averaging 1255. Of the entering PhD students, three are from the U.S., including Sirena Hargrove (NSF and DOD Graduate Fellowships), Matthew Leonard (coming from employment at Los Alamos National Labs), and James McIntyre (one of our top undergraduates). Of the international students, four come from India, and one each from China, Bangladesh, Argentina, and Yugoslavia. The addition of these students brings our graduate enrollment to 84 (68 PhD, 16 MS/ME).

Ph. D. Graduation: During the 1997-98 year, we graduated four Ph.D. Students (see Table1).

Awards: Several of our graduate students received awards on Graduate Student Day, April 1, 1998. Gowri Nagarajan received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Research. This

is a University-wide award presented by the Dean of the Graduate School. Pankaj Arora was named the Outstanding Chemical Engineering Graduate Student. In the Student Presentation Contest, Brad Johnson won first place ($1,000) in the Engineering Division, while Arun Krishnan followed close behind in second place ($400). All of these students deserve our congratulations!

Table I. Thesis Titles (1996-1997, 1997-1998)

Graduate Student

Major Professor

Thesis Title

Degree (MS/Ph.D.)

Date Granted

Dharmashankar Subramanian

James A. Ritter

Equilibrium Theory for Solvent Vapor Recovery Using Pressure Swing Adsorption



Murali Ramasubramanian

Ralph E. White

Experimental Characterization and Theoretical Treatment of Alloys and Composites that Undergo Anomalous Codeposition



Dawn See

Ralph E. White

Evaluation of Ni/H2 Battery Electrolyte Transport Properties and the Optimization of Cell Performance Through Temperature Control



Platon Tsakiroglou

Michael D. Amiridis

Synthesis of Novel Perovskite-based Sorbents for Hot Coal Gas Desulfurization



Student Co-op Experiences

The Department had 12 students working in co-op programs during summer 1998 in the following industries:

Fall 1997




Alumax of South Carolina, Goose Creek, SC


W. L. Gore & Associates, Elkton, MD


SRS/Bechtel, Aiken, SC


SRS/Westinghouse, Aiken, SC


Milliken & Co., Marietta, SC


Westvaco, North Charleston, SC


Union Camp Corp., Eastover, SC


Milliken & Co., Barnwell, SC


Milliken & Co., Pendleton, SC

Spring 1998




Ashland Petroleum


W. L. Gore & Associates, Elkton, MD


SRS/Bechtel, Aiken, SC


SRS/Westinghouse, Aiken, SC


Milliken & Co., Marietta, SC


Westvaco, North Charleston, SC


Alumax of South Carolina, Goose Creek, SC


Milliken & Co., Barnwell, SC


Thermal Plastics


Eastman Chemical


Chem Nuclear


AlliedSignal Fibers


Fuji Film


AlliedSignal/Oak Mitsui

Honors College Students

The Department of Chemical Engineering has 35 students in the South Carolina Honors College. This is about half of the total number of engineering students in the Honors College. The SCHC has become one of the top programs of its kind in the Southeast and has become a major recruiting tool for USC. The average SAT score of students entering our Honors College is 1346. Most of our Honors College students write their senior thesis using results obtained working on a research project in the Department.

Corporate Contributors

The Department expresses its sincere gratitude to the following corporate contributors who have given generously to the Department's Chemical Engineering Fund (unrestricted gifts) and to the USC Capital Campaign during the 1997-1998 fiscal year:

AlliedSignal $ 3,000

Bulk Molding Company $175,000

DuPont $ 10,000

Eastman Foundation $ 6,000

Union Camp Charitable Trust $ 1,500

We are especially pleased that Mr. Larry Nunnery, President of Bulk Molding Company, has pledged to donate $175,000 to establish an undergraduate scholarship in honor of Professor Joe Gibbons. Larry was a student under Joe's tutelage, and it is a testimony to Joe's dedication to USC and his students. We express our deep appreciation to Larry, and to Joe for his outstanding leadership and nurturing of our Carolina students.

III. Staff

The Department of Chemical Engineering has six staff members who provide assistance to faculty and students. Ruth Heacock who is the Business Manager oversees the administrative and financial operations of the Department. Judy Williams is a business associate and provides support to the business manager and entire faculty on administrative and business matters. Rose Mary Corbett is an administrative associate who is responsible for supporting the admissions program for graduate students, faculty searches, and other administrative matters for several faculty members. Marcia Rowen is a Program Coordinator and assists Dr. Vincent Van Brunt and the Filtration Research Engineering Demonstration participants and research staff.

Our recent staff hires area as follows:

  • Brian Loggans, Information Resource Consultant I (Computer Technician) effective August 1, 1997

  • Sandra Knotts, Administrative Coordinator, effective October 16, 1997

  • Charles Holland, Associate Engineer II, effective March 1, 1998

  • Matthew Drexler, Business Associate, effective June 8, 1998

Brian is keeping our computer humming; Sandra is working half time for the department and half time for Dr. White; Chuck is working half time on Unit Operations Laboratory and half time on research. Matt Drexler has been added to the staff and assists the business manager with budget matters, our DOE/EPSCoR project and is the administrative coordinator for the Research Experience Undergraduate project.

IV. Faculty (1997-1998)


Joseph H. Gibbons, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 1961, Associate Dean for Academics, College of Engineering

Vincent Van Brunt, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, 1974

Ralph E. White, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1977, Chairman and Westinghouse Distinguished Scientist

Associate Professors

Francis A. Gadala-Maria, Ph.D., Stanford University, 1979

Michael A. Matthews, Ph.D., Texas A&M University, 1986, Assistant Chairman

Thanasis Papathanasiou, Ph.D., McGill University, 1990

Harry J. Ploehn, Ph.D., Princeton University, 1988

Graduate Director

John W. Van Zee, Ph.D., Texas A&M University, 1984

John W. Weidner, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 1991

Assistant Professors

Michael D. Amiridis, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1991

Perla B. Balbuena, Ph.D., University of Texas, 1996

Karlene A. Kosanovich, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 1986

James A. Ritter, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 1989

Thomas G. Stanford, Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1977

Research Professor

Branko N. Popov, Ph.D., University of Zagreb, 1972

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Milton W. Davis, Jr., Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1951

We are all delighted that Professor Harry Ploehn was awarded tenure this year.

Professor Vincent Van Brunt was elected a Fellow of the AIChE in July of 1997, and his biographical write-up announcing his election appeared in the June 1998 issue of AIChE Extra. He appreciates the kind words and regards from his former students who communicated with him about his achievement. In May 1998, he was named the AIChE Professor of the Year. During 1997-1998, he taught Separations and Process Safety. In January and February he was one of eight external reviewers of the technical proposals to provide high level nuclear waste treatment services for the Hanford reservation. In March he again served as a member of the eight-man assessment team of the review process. The review and assessment of it provided guidance to the U. S. Department of Energy about the technology used to treat two-thirds of the high level waste inventory in the United States. Professor Van Brunt continues to serve as one of the Directors of the Separations Division of AIChE and also as the Programming Area 2c Chair (Extraction). After completing a 124-day campaign in 1997-1998, the filtration Research Engineering Demonstration (FRED) ran tests to further characterize cross-flow filtration for nuclear applications. During this fall, FRED will run a 53-day campaign to assess the viability of this technology for the recovery of Strontium. He continues his separations research on extraction, extractive distillation, and aqueous detritiation and his safety research on risk assessment using fuzzy logic. The detritiation assessment report he wrote with his graduate students Heidi Fulbright, Amy Spann and Karen Jerome and Brian Looney from SRS provided the basis to assess detritiation technology alternatives to treat the tritium spill at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Professor Michael Amiridis won the 1998 Michael J. Mungo Teaching Award and the 1998 Mortar Board's Excellence in Teaching award. Professor Amiridis as Principal Investigator and Professor John Van Zee as Co-Principal Investigator were notified that their proposals for an REU site in materials for electrochemical power sources and an REU site in pollution prevention technologies were funded in January of 1998. The REU sites support 21 students. (See additional information in Section V.)

Professor Michael Matthews has continued to work enthusiastically on the HRD portion of the DOE/EPSCoR Program. Six faculty from regional HBCU's have been supported to do research with the DOE/EPSCoR faculty, along with sixteen undergraduate researchers. Mr. Randall La Cross has accepted the position of Middle/High School Curriculum Development Specialist for that program. He started on June 22, 1998. He will be visiting with faculty members to see what they would like included in curriculum modules that will be designed for middle and high school teachers. This project will educate teacher around the state with a short course about electrochemical power sources, specifically fuel cells and batteries, to then be adapted into curriculum for the classroom. Professor Matthews is continuing development of several experiments dealing with the manufacture and characterization of poly(methyl methacrylate), a project that is funded by an Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement grant from NSF. Professor Michael Matthews was elected chair of the AIChE Area 1f(High Pressure) Programming Group at the AIChE Annual Meeting in Los Angeles. The High Pressure Group deals with research and development in the area of supercritical fluid science and technology. He will be the liaison from this group to the AIChE Programming Committee.

Professor Karlene Kosanovich received the ASEE Southern Section Dow Outstanding New Faculty Member Award. Dr. Kosanovich participated in the Vision 2020 Task Force of the AIChE with co-sponsorship by NSF and DOE on Research and Development Needs in Systems Technologies for Process Operations in July of 1997 at Snowbird, Utah. This past summer, she worked on a project funded by Savannah River Site on the development of a continuous, animated model of the High Level Waster (HLW) treatment water balance. The model will give HLW personnel the ability to compare quantitatively options for evaluating water balance problems and process improvement opportunities. Better and quicker decisions regarding these two issues will help HLW achieve stable operations sooner and implement improvements more quickly and effectively.

Professor Perla Balbuena received a NSF POWRE (Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education) award to carry out research on her area of expertise, prediction of physico-chemical properties using molecular simulations. Last spring Dr. Balbuena developed and taught a new graduate course on Theory and Applications of Molecular Simulations (ECHE 719). This elective course had a very high enrollment and was received with great interest by the students. One of the requirements of this class was the preparation of a final project entirely worked by the students. Four of these projects will be presented by the students at the Topical Conference on Molecular Simulations to be held at the November AIChE National Meeting. At the same symposium Dr. Balbuena will chair two sessions: one on Molecular Modeling to Solve Environmental Problems and another on Simulations of Supercritical Fluids.

Professor Thanasis Papathanasiou joined the faculty in October 1997 and lectured the Junior class on "Heat Flow Analysis" in the Spring 98 term. He co-chaired the "Composite Materials" session at the 13th US National Congress on Applied Mechanics and a session on "Rheology and Fluid Mechanics of non-Linear Materials" at the 1997 ASME Annual Meeting. Along with Professor X. Ren of Utah State University, Professor Papathanasiou organized and chaired a session on "Modeling, Simulation and Sensing of Fine-Scale Structures" at the 1998 SES Annual Meeting. Professor Papathanasiou's research proposal on "Meso-Scale Physics of Flow in Fibrous Media" was selected for funding by the Department of Energy for the period 1998-2000.

Professor Francis Gadala-Maria chairs the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee of the department, and has shepherded several significant curriculum changes through the Department and College. Engineering dynamics is now an engineering elective, rather than being a required course. Process control has been moved to the fall semester of the junior year. The physical chemistry sequence has been converted to a two-course chemistry elective. These changes provide additional flexibility to the curriculum, and ease the coursework load in the senior year. Francis has also continued to work with interdisciplinary engineering design teams under a SCUREF grant. This innovative grant allows senior students to work on design teams to help solve problems.

Professor James Ritter has continued to work with students and technicians to make significant improvements in the number and quality of experiments in the Chemical Engineering Laboratory undergraduate course. In the past three years we have added experiments in filtration, membrane separation, solids drying, chromatography, reaction kinetics, and electrochemical recovery of aqueous metal ions. The appearance and flexibility of the labs have been greatly improved. We are now serving about 40 students each semester. In January of 1998, Jim was also invited to serve on the Editorial Board of Separation Science and Technology, and he is also serving as the AIChE Programming Area 2e Chair (Adsorption and Ion Exchange.

A special note of recognition should be given to Charles Holland, who has worked part-time with Dr. Ritter making major improvements in the mechanical design and data acquisition for our experiments.

Professor John Van Zee once again taught a three-week mini-mester at the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. This course focuses on batteries, and the application of chemistry and mathematics in the design and analysis of battery systems. This has been a very popular course at GSSM, as evidenced by their continued requests for John’s course.

Professors Van Zee, Amiridis, Balbuena, and Weidner organized a Summer Undergraduate Research program for the summer of 1997. They recruited thirteen students, including six minority students, from around the nation for research internships of six to ten weeks. These faculty also organized a busy social and professional schedule, with plant trips to Westvaco, Carolina Eastman, AlliedSignal, Milliken, W. R. Grace, Roche Carolina. We are deeply grateful to these companies for their support. Dean Craig Rogers supported this program by providing the funds for on-campus housing. We hope that this effort, and similar efforts in the future, will help us increase the number of U.S. Citizens entering our Ph.D. programs.

Professor Ralph E. White received the 1998 Faculty Research Award from Dean Craig Rogers during Convocation on May 11, 1998.

  1. 1998 Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

There are now two National Science Foundation REU Sites in our department. They are entitled “Materials for Power Sources” and “Pollution Technologies” and had 21 participants during the summer of 1998. Dr. Michael D. Amiridis is the site Director and Dr. John W. Van Zee is the Co-Director. Matthew Drexler is the Program Coordinator.

Activities for the REU participants include planned visits to industrial locations, weekly faculty presentations, an Environmental Ethics/Pharmaceutical Discovery Workshop, a Graduate School Workshop and several social activities. The participants formed a cohesive group and they enjoyed their weekends sharing in various activities around Columbia and Atlanta. All participants stayed in campus housing and shared an entire wing of the residence halls to enhance further interaction among them. Each REU student was assigned a research advisor and worked closely with his/her advisor and his/her research group.

REU participant research presentations were held on August 3, 1998 and August 7, 1998. The table below shows our 1998 REU students and their advisors.

REU Participants




Jayme Bridges

N. C. State

Dr. Ploehn

Michelle Bryant

University of Toledo

Dr. Ritter

Hector Colon- Mercado

University of Puerto Rico

Dr. Papathanasiou

Claudio Estevez

University of Puerto Rico

Dr. Van Zee

Debraj Ghosh

Carnegie Mellon

Dr.White/ Dr. Popov

Kevin Houchens

Carnegie Mellon

Dr. Van Zee

Jessica Joyner

Tuskegee University

Dr. Ritter

Miranda Lau

Michigan State

Dr. Matthews

Liza Lopez

University of Puerto Rico

Dr. Balbuena

Alexander Marchut

University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Balbeuna

Amy Nelson

University of Toledo

Dr. Ploehn

Binh Nguyen


Dr. Van Brunt

Khanghy Nguyen

Michigan State

Dr. Kosanovich

Tochi Nwoga

Florida A & M

Dr. Weidner

Ivelisse Ortiz

University of Puerto Rico

Dr. Amiridis

James Patch


Dr. Weidner/ Dr. Matthews

Emily Pollauf

University of Toledo

Dr. Gadala-Maria

Juan Rivas

University of Puerto Rico

Dr. Amiridis

Brian Seat

University of South Carolina

Dr. Popov/White

Marcella Tringali

Michigan State

Dr. Amiridis

Eveline Tseng

University of Delaware

Dr. Matthews

Yang Yang

University of Minnesota

Dr. White/Dr. Popov

VI. Performance Charts and Tables

The following charts summarize the key indicators or metrics for our Department. The Department is pursuing a goal of achieving national recognition for excellence in all aspects of our program.

Figure 1 shows how we have increased our publication rate since 1993.

Figure 1

Figure 2 indicates how our faculty size and research expenditures have changed since the 1993-94 fiscal year. The size of the faculty is still at an all-time high of 13 tenure-track faculty members, including the Chairman and one research faculty member for a total of 14 faculty members.

Figure 2

Figures 3-6 present our degree granting and enrollment history. The degree data are based on graduation in August or December in 1997 and May 1998. The enrollment data is based on the Fall 1997 semester. As shown in Figure 3 our BS graduation rate is rising slightly while our Masters graduation rate is coming down. Also, shown in Figure 3 is that our Ph.D. graduation rate has increased from 1993-94 to 1997-98. We expect a bumper crop of Ph.D.’s next year since four Ph.D.’s graduated in August 1998 and are not shown in this figure.

Figure 3

Figure 4 shows that our undergraduate enrollment is on the upswing from a low of 164 in 1996.

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