AIChE Spring 2023

Editor: Celesta Cox

Inside this issue:

Advisor’s Corner:

Spring AIChE Conference

Tinker Process Safety Prize

Research Spotlight

SWE High School Conference

K-12 Outreach Program

Research Open House

Engineering Week – The Newlywed Game ChemE Comic



Advisor’s Corner:

Prof. David Murhammer, Professor and AIChE Student Chapter Advisor


Greetings to Hawkeye Chemical Engineers! Another academic year has come to an end!

This Spring 2023 issue of the University of Iowa AIChE Student Chapter Newsletter begins with an article about our attendance at this year’s Mid-America regional conference held at the University of Missouri (Columbia, Missouri). I was joined by 39 undergraduate students attending the conference. Congratulations to Josiah Power for winning the Student Technical Presentation Competition. He will represent the Mid-America Region at the AIChE Annual Student Conference (ASC) being held November 3-6 in Orlando, Florida. Congratulations also go out to the ChemE Jeopardy team of Nicholas Brunn, Liam Horan, Marie Ohlinger and Darrell Smith who won the regional competition and will be vying for the University of Iowa’s fifth national championship in November at the ASC.

This newsletter issue also includes articles about (i) the Tinker Process Safety Competition that was won by Olivia Clark, (ii) undergraduate research experiences of Eleanor Lopez, (iii) Society of Women Engineers High School Conference, (iv) K-12 Outreach program that involves working with local elementary school science teachers to enhance students’ learning, (v) the College of Engineering Research Open House, and (vi) The Newlywed Game held during Engineering Week. This issue concludes with a timely comic by Nick Brunn.

Any comments about the newsletter should be sent to me at david-

Spring AIChE Conference:

Spring AIChE Conference:

Olivia Dohm

Thirty-nine undergraduate chemical engineering students attended the 2023 Regional Mid-America American Institute of Chemical Engineers Student Conference from April 14-16 in Columbia, Missouri. Students departed from Iowa City in vans and arrived at Mizzou’s beautiful campus on April 14th! At night, students headed to the Social Event held at Level Up Entertainment and played mini golf with students from other schools.

University of Iowa AIChE students at the Mid-America Regional Conference The next day was the day of the conference! The conference was held at the Mizzou

College of Engineering in the chemical engineering department. Students first watched other ChemE Car teams compete head-to-head. Next, students ate lunch and networked with other AIChE students. Students also were able to network with companies that sponsored the conference.

Our University of Iowa students competed in several activities, including ChemE Jeopardy, a Student Poster Presentation, and Student Technical Presentation Competition. Iowa brought 3 ChemE Jeopardy teams to the conference, and one of our teams, called the Azeo Troupe, won the ChemE Jeopardy finals! This team was Marie Ohlinger, Darrell Smith, Nicholas Brunn, and Liam Horan, and they will be heading to nationals this upcoming fall to hopefully take another trophy back to Iowa City!

Azeo Troupe ChemE Jeopardy winners (L:R Liam Horan, Nicholas Brunn, Darrell Smith, Marie Ohlinger)

Two students participated in the Student Poster Presentation, myself and Olivia Clark. We both presented posters on process safety incidents that we had researched and presented at the Tinker Safety Competition. It was a great opportunity to speak to other students about common process safety issues and inherently safer design strategies.

Olivia Dohm presenting at the Student Poster Competition
Lastly, three of our students gave technical presentations: Josiah Powers, Anthony

Wagner, and Aoife Cleary. Josiah ended up winning 1st place in this competition, meaning he will travel to nationals in the fall to present! He did

I was incredibly proud of our organization at this conference. We were able to network with other chemical engineers and

companies, learn more about the other Mid-America regional schools, and take some trophies home while we were at it!

research on "Thermal Susceptibility of

Polymicrobial Biofilms” under the supervision of Eric Nuxoll.

Tinker Process Safety Competition:

Tinker Process Safety Competition:

Olivia Clark

After the successful completion of the Chemical Process Safety course taught by Professor Murhammer, third-year students had the opportunity to compete in the Tinker Process Safety Competition. The competition was created five years ago by Iowa alumna Sharon Tinker. Tinker, a member of Iowa’s Distinguished Engineering Alumni Academy, had an avid career in chemical process safety at ExxonMobil. She still teaches the importance of safety in her retirement through her sponsorship of this competition. Each year, the first-place winner receives $1000, runners-up each receive $500, and all other participants receive $100. All participants of this year’s competition were additionally given a copy of Incidents that Define Process Safety, a book by John Atherton and Frederic Gil. This year’s winner and runners-up will also receive a trip to the 2024 AIChE Spring Meeting and 20th Global Congress on Process Safety. The meeting is to be held in New Orleans, LA, and the trip will be sponsored by the CBE department.

Seven students participated in the competition this year, each of whom reported on a chemical processing incident investigated by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB). The participants wrote a report and presented a poster on their researched incidents. Historically, the final grade in the Chemical Process Safety course was also a component in the evaluation of each participant, but the criterion was dropped this year to encourage greater engagement. The reports were judged by several Iowa alumni, including Tinker herself. The posters were judged by Tinker, a few of the alumni who judged the reports, and last year’s competition winner and runners-up. The poster presentations were held on February 17th on the fourth floor of the Seamans Center.

After the completion of the poster presentations, the judges met to determine the winners. I was awarded first place for my report and poster on the MGPI Processing, Inc. Toxic Chemical Release. For the very first time, due to close competition, three runners-up were chosen. The runners-up were Celesta Cox, Olivia Dohm, and Alejandro Lira.

The toxic release at MGPI Processing, Inc. took place in Atchison, KS on October 21, 2016. The Mod B facility on the plant site added chemicals to wheat starches to customize them for clients. During a delivery of sulfuric acid from Harcros Chemicals, a miscommunication occurred between the delivery driver and the operator who accepted the delivery. The operator claimed he showed the delivery driver the sulfuric acid fill line’s location after he unlocked its dust cap. The driver, however, reported that he was not shown the location of the fill line. After the encounter, the operator left the area and did not witness the delivery, which was inconsistent with MGPI’s chemical delivery procedure. Unbeknownst to the delivery driver, the cap to the sodium hypochlorite fill line was unlocked due to a missing split ring, and he ultimately discharged sulfuric acid into that fill line. The exothermic reaction between the two incompatible chemicals produced a plume of chlorine gas and other compounds. Neither the driver nor the operators were able to stop the flow of sulfuric acid into the sodium hypochlorite tank. Instead,

they were overcome by the chlorine gas since they did not have access to proper ventilation. Thousands of Atchison residents were ordered to shelter-in-place as the plume spread, and some were later ordered to evacuate. The flow was ultimately stopped by the Atchison Fire Department, and the plume eventually dispersed. The CSB recommended that MGPI review and update its ventilation system and add controls to automatically stop deliveries. Harcros Chemicals was recommended to provide refresher training to their drivers and determine if drivers need respiratory equipment. I additionally recommended that MGPI add labels to each chemical’s fill line, enforce regular equipment checks, audit their workers for procedural compliance, and offer refresher training on how to accept chemical deliveries.

Through participation in the Tinker Process Safety Competition, students enjoyed the opportunity to apply and expand their knowledge on process safety in the chemical industry. It was an exciting way to practice both written and oral communication in a technical setting. The competition will be offered again to next year's Chemical Process Safety students, and they are highly encouraged to participate.

The Seven Competition Participants- Zach Thomas, Celesta Cox, Alejandro Lira, Olivia Dohm, Lane Swartzendruber, Olivia Clark, and Josiah Power

The Three Runners-Up and the Winner: Celesta Cox, Olivia Dohm, Olivia Clark, and Alejandro Lira

Undergraduate Research:

Undergraduate Research:

Eleanor Lopez

Research by undergraduates at the University of Iowa is a great opportunity to gain experience in the field before heading out to an internship or deciding on graduate school as an option. There are many opportunities to do research both during the school year or over the summer, through ICRU fellowships or REU programs.

I have had the opportunity to do research in two labs during my time at the University of Iowa, in two different departments. My freshman year, I did research during spring semester under Dr. Lamuta in the mechanical engineering department. I worked on a project developing artificial muscles made from coiled wire and fishing wire that could be electrically actuated. The artificial muscles were created with the goal of using them in soft robotics applications, where rigid robotic arms cannot be used. During this project, I spent a lot of time doing literature review to learn more about the field, manufacturing artificial muscles, performing range of motion and actuation tests, as well as testing the behaviors of different materials for the application.

In the fall of my sophomore year, I started working under Dr. Sander in the biomedical engineering department on various projects. I started out helping a graduate student manufacture alginate microcarriers for a NASA collaboration project that investigated effects of a microgravity environment on pluripotent stem cells. Last spring, I also worked on a fibrin gel degradation project, in which I tested the effects of various types of agitation in combination with tPA on gel degradation, for applications in a potential blood clot therapy.

This year, I was able to begin work on a collaboration project where I investigate mechanical properties of bacterial biofilms using oscillatory shear rheology. I have learned a lot about mechanics of soft materials and rheological testing, as well as developed a protocol for these testing methods to gather preliminary data. This work will be used to investigate the effects of heat treatment on the mechanical properties of biofilms. Overall, my research as an undergraduate has helped me gain experience to obtain internships and other opportunities and grow my skills as a scientist and an engineer.

The Society of Women Engineers High School Conference:

The Society of Women Engineers High School Conference:

Celesta Cox

The Society of Women Engineers hosts an annual high school conference, which brings high schoolers to campus to learn about engineering at Iowa. The event was hosted by Calla Swanson, a second-year chemical engineering student.

On April 14th, students from the local area along with other areas of the state and Illinois came to Iowa to join the fun. The event kicked off with a few icebreakers and a welcoming message from our Associate Dean Grosland. Those who attended had the unique opportunity to attend part of the Iowa Women’s Basketball celebration on the Pentacrest! Attendees participated in several activities ranging from making boats of aluminum foil to hold pennies and guessing who among a panel of male students was an engineer. In addition to these games and challenges, the students also had the opportunity to learn about all the disciplines of engineering at Iowa with short lab tours. Several members of our local Professional SWE chapter were also in attendance to meet and share with our attendees what it means to be a professional in engineering and those next steps. Following these panels, a dinner was also provided with the attendance of several professors across all departments, including our very own Professor Jennifer Fiegel.

Overall, the event ran very smoothly, and I was very proud of Calla Swanson. Having been the past High School Conference chair for the organization, it was amazing to be able to volunteer at this event. The joy that the students experienced made attending the event and being a volunteer that much more worthwhile. Our SWE chapter has made consistent efforts to share the love of STEM with children of all ages and having this event be successful really showed that our efforts have made a difference. We hope to continue this event and involve more of our local community in the future, and I look forward to seeing what our next chair accomplishes.

Calla Swanson and Kalyn Zitsch, the High School Conference Chair and Assistant

Sam Mittal, Calla Swanson, and Celesta Cox, chemical engineering students and the past three High School Conference chairs for SWE

K-12 Outreach Program:

K-12 Outreach Program:

Katelyn Weber

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers chapter at the University of Iowa has created an outreach program for K-12 students in the community to gain interest in STEM. In the past years, this position held a Kid’s Day Camp event for Earth Day; however, since then, it has been revamped to allow for more involvement in nearby elementary schools.

On April 6th, there was a science night at Penn Elementary School, where a small group of seven ambassadors taught students how to make slime and the reaction that creates it. They first grabbed a prepared cup of equal parts glue and water, the students got to choose what color food dye they wanted to make their slime, then they mixed the concoction with a popsicle stick. Once the mixture was homogeneous, a small amount of borax and water was added which influenced the reaction to produce slime. This occurs because the introduction of borax creates borate ions that cross-link with the glue polymer to trap the water and create a thick slime substance. Once the slime was fully mixed and thick, it was placed in a plastic bag so that the finished product could be brought home. Over 200 students made slime at our booth at the science night over the hours of 6 to 8 pm.

Over the course of this semester, a small group of K-12 ambassadors went to Alexander and Longfellow Elementary Schools in Iowa City, where both slime and strawberry DNA experiments were completed. The science teachers of the 6th grade classes invited the K-12 ambassadors to come and teach the students the background of how each experiment worked and hopefully gain interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. In a class size of about twenty students, the slime experiment was conducted in a similar fashion that was done at Penn Elementary School. The strawberry DNA experiment was completed by the following process. Each student got a strawberry and placed it into a plastic bag, then sealed the bag. The strawberry was crushed to break down the cell wall, then a mixture of soap, water, and salt was added to further degrade the cell and expose the chromosomes of the berry. This mixture was poured over a filter in another plastic bag to separate the strawberry chunks from the DNA. The DNA was extracted with a pipette and placed into a small capsule for the students to keep.

The goal of this new and revamped program is to introduce STEM topics in a fun and inviting way in hopes to gain the interest of younger students in the community. The events completed this semester were very successful and will hopefully be continued in the future by the University of Iowa’s AIChE chapter.

The College of Engineering Research Open House:

The College of Engineering Research Open House:

Braden Jensen

The research open house for the College of Engineering was held on April 20th. For my Green Chemical and Energy technologies class, Lane Swartzendruber and I conducted research to be presented at this open house. We partnered with the Iowa City transportation department for this project. The city has recently started to purchase and phase in electric buses around the city with a goal of having zero net emissions. Our research project was to determine the feasibility of hydrogen fuel cell buses in Iowa city.

The two methods that we used to determine the feasibility of hydrogen fuel cell buses were on a life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a cost analysis basis. The LCA analysis is a life-cycle analysis that includes operation, the production of the buses, and the fuel. After the LCA was conducted, it was determined that the hydrogen fuel cell buses have much larger GHG emissions than that of the electric bus. The cost analysis also determined that the hydrogen fuel buses were much more expensive than the electric buses. The main reason for this is because of the lack of infrastructure for the hydrogen fueling. This research showed that the hydrogen fuel cells are not feasible currently for Iowa City.

After the research open house was finished, we placed first in the undergraduate research for the CBE department. At the College of Engineering student leadership banquet, we were recognized for this award and accomplishment. This was a great experience for me because it was my first experience in research, and it opened my eyes to the possibility of doing research in the future.


Braden Jensen and Lane Swartzendruber at the Research Open House

Engineering Week - The Newlywed Game:

Engineering Week - The Newlywed Game:

Logan Garland

This year’s annual Engineering Week came with plenty of excitement for students and faculty alike. On Friday afternoon, the Newlywed Game, hosted by the department in previous years, was back in full swing! Seven student couples (and friendships) competed across two rounds hosted by me, the AIChE social chair, in which they tried to correctly answer questions about their partner’s hobbies, interests, and more. This was a welcome break from coursework at the end of the week.

After the student rounds, a faculty round was attended by Professor Nuxoll and Mrs. Nuxoll, Professor Stanier and Mrs. Stanier, and Jane Dorman and Dr. Geb Thomas. Attendance was strong – over 60 students across many different engineering majors and grades made it to the event to watch, along with CBE faculty members. This year’s prize for the winning couple of each round was a $50 golden ticket to a wide range of restaurants in downtown Iowa City, including Basta, Iowa Chophouse, and Baroncini. The winners of the golden ticket were student couple Rio de los Santos and Julianne Hanson, student couple Riya Patel and Lucas Law, and Professor Nuxoll and his wife Kim.


Audience Members and Participants of the Newlywed Game

ChemE Comic:

Nicholas Brunn



Audience Members and Participants of the Newlywed Game

Thank you to the AIChE Officers for their hard work and contributing efforts to make our AIChE Student Chapter a successful organization.

President: Olivia Dohm
Vice President: Braden Jensen
Secretary: Jakob Kindle
Treasurer: Alejandro Lira
Newsletter Editor: Celesta Cox
Webmaster: Rio de los Santos
Historian: Lane Swartzendruber
Social Chair: Logan Garland
ChemE Car Chairs: Jack Renning and Zach Thomas
K-12 Program Coordinators: Eleanor Lopez, Katelyn Weber, and Savannah Barnes Volunteer Chair: Aoife Cleary
Advisor: Professor David Murhammer

Editor-In-Chief Celesta Cox would also like to thank the following people for their support and contributions to the Spring 2023 AIChE Student Chapter Newsletter:

Faculty Advisor: Professor David Murhammer
Contributors: Olivia Dohm, Olivia Clark, Eleanor Lopez, Katelyn Weber, Braden Jensen,

Logan Garland, and Nicholas Brunn

Your help is much appreciated!

Interested in speaking at professional seminar? If so, then contact our Fall 2023 AIChE Student Chapter Vice President Aoife Cleary at or Student Chapter Advisor Prof. David Murhammer at for details and availability!