Chemical engineering students win awards at AIChE conference

Two Wayne State University chemical engineering undergraduate students, Chloe Luyet and Benjamin Valley, were awarded at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Student Conference in October in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Luyet developed a computational research method to test the environmental impact of surfactants, specifically alcohols and carboxylic acids. Everyday products like soap, laundry detergent, kitchenware and car paint contain surfactants added to reduce the surface tension in liquids which in turn increases their wetting and spreading properties. Despite how commonly surfactants are used, long term exposure of these substances can have toxic effects on both humans and wildlife. Through Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations, Luyet could mimic the behavior the surfactants in the environment without causing harm to humans and animals.

After working on the project for two years, Luyet submitted her research to the AIChE 2017 Undergraduate Student Poster Competition. Her project, “The Effect of Fluorination on the Interfacial Properties of Alcohols and Carboxylic Acids,” placed third in the "Material Engineering and Sciences V" category.

Founded in 1908, AIChE is the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, with more than 50,000 members in industry, academia and government. According to Luyet, the conference, “was a great way for me, as an undergraduate student, to network with professionals in my field.”

Valley was the recipient of the AIChE ScaleUp scholarship. To apply for the scholarship, contestants chose one of five prompts provided by a conference sponsor and wrote a 500-word essay. The prompt Valley chose was provided by Chevron and regarded improving process safety in the chemical engineering field. Valley chose this prompt because he values safety above all else.

“Even the most impressive and profitable products and processes are worthless in my opinion if they can’t be manufactured or carried out in a safe manner,” said Valley, who used the $500 scholarship to cover the travel and lodging expenses of attending the conference.

Both Luyet and Valley are applying for graduate school. Luyet plans to pursue her Ph.D. in chemical engineering and has professional aspirations in the food and drug research domain. Valley is interested in research and development in either the pharmaceuticals or oil and gas industries.