SALT LAKE CITY -- The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the world’s leading association for chemical engineers, will hold their Annual Meeting here this week. More than 5,000 engineers and undergraduate engineering students are expected to converge on the city for plenary lectures, 12 topical conferences, more than 700 technical sessions and special events. The conference focuses on all aspects of chemical engineering, from alternative energy and energy efficiency to nuclear energy, sustainable water supplies and bioengineering.
On Tuesday morning, Kristi Anseth, Tisone Professor of chemical and biological engineering, associate professor of surgery, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at the University of Colorado at Boulder, will deliver the Professional Progress Award Lecture, Biology in Four Dimensions: Dynamic Hyrdogel Niches for Tissue Regeneration. Anseth works at the intersection of three fields—engineering, chemistry, and biology—to design polymers that imitate living tissues, with the goal of helping the body heal itself. The polymers are meant to serve as scaffolds, or templates, on which cells can grow to replace diseased or damaged body parts, including knees, hips, cartilage, and heart valves—all without the trauma of major surgery.
Most events are being held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. This year’s program also includes the annual meeting of the American Electrophoresis Society. More than 5,000 engineers, educators and undergraduate engineering students are expected to attend and bring over $4.5 million in estimated direct economic spending to Salt Lake. Economic impact figures are based on research from the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR). According to BEBR, a Salt Lake convention delegate in 2009 spent $923 during an average three-day stay.
“Chemical engineers are at the forefront of economic growth and human progress worldwide, rapidly turning new technology into useful and exciting products and processes,” said June Wispelwey, AIChE executive director. “This conference allows all our members to learn about these exciting developments from across the spectrum of chemical engineering.”
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Many chemical engineers are working on solutions to energy and environmental issues, which often go hand-in-hand. At Monday afternoon’s Annual Meeting Plenary, Energy and Water Sustainability for a Smart Planet, Spike Narayan from IBM , Jared Cifnero of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory, and David Klanecky of Dow Water & Process Solutions will discuss water consumption as it relates to energy production.
Each year, AIChE invites a distinguished chemical engineer to present a comprehensive review of his or her specialty. This year’s Institute Lecturer is Julio M. Ottino, dean of engineering, R.R. McCormick Institute Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University. He will take a “long view” look at chemical engineering – where the field has been and the opportunities that lie ahead as a confluence of factors – energy, global health, environment, and many others arising from increased connectedness and complexity – make chemical engineering more relevant than ever.
Other energy and environmental presentations will focus on the production and storage of electricity through sustainable means such as wind and solar, biofuels, climate change legislation and regulations, processing nuclear wastes and site remediation.
“Chemical engineers play a critical role in developing new forms of energy and in helping us preserve our precious natural resources,” said Henry T. (Hank) Kohlbrand, AIChE president. “Through their tireless efforts, we have hope that the world will have sustainable, reliable and environmentally sound energy supplies throughout the future.”
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND MEDICINE
On Tuesday morning, a session on bionanotechnology will focus on real-world applications for cancer therapy, HIV and MRSA (drug-resistant “staph” bacteria) developments. (treatment? therapy?—we’re not applying HIV itself).
That same evening, Harvey W. Blanch, the Merck Professor of Biochemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkley, will receive the James E. Bailey Award Lecture Sponsored by the Society for Biological Engineering. In his lecture, entitled, "Evolving Biological Engineering,” Blanch will look at the rapid growth of research and development at the interface of biology and engineering and project biological engineering’s potential future impacts.
The 3rd Industrial Innovation Award and Lecture, which recognizes a company for outstanding innovation, will be presented on Thursday. Dr. Ann Lee, senior vice president and head of global technical development for Roche, will describe how Genentech scientists and engineers pioneered and then exploited the use of recombinant DNA technology to develop and manufacture proteins and monoclonal antibodies for therapeutic use. This presentation will highlight the chemical engineering innovations that contributed to several breakthroughs in therapeutic medicines, and that inspire us to focus our imagination on what is possible for patients.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Yesterday, the Chem-E-Car competition, one of the chemical engineering students’ most popular annual events, took place. College and university teams raced shoebox-size cars powered by alternative fuels using carefully calculated chemical reactions. Adding to the excitement of the competition, the cars must safely transport a small payload a certain distance, but that critical information is not revealed to the teams until one hour before the race, so students must quickly calculate how much fuel to use.
For more information on all the activities surrounding the AIChE Annual Meeting, please visit www.aiche.org/annual