Durand acknowledged for contributions to AIChE and chemical engineering field on AIChE’s 35 Under 35 list

Helen Durand

Helen Durand, associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Wayne State University, was selected as a recipient of the AIChE 35 Under 35 award, which recognizes 35 chemical engineering professionals under the age of 35 who have made significant contributions to the field and to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers while serving as a role model for future generations. 

“I love chemical engineering, and I am incredibly honored by this recognition within our professional society,” said Durand, who was formally recognized with her fellow awardees in November at the 2023 AIChE Annual Meeting in Orlando. 

Nominees for the 35 Under 35 recognition can have made contributions through any of seven broad categories. Durand was one of two winners selected for the safety category. 

Durand’s research combines mathematics, control theory and chemical engineering to produce fundamental advances that may be readily applied to solve practical problems in manufacturing. Her efforts aim to mitigate safety and security hazards related to control systems for chemical processes, advance autonomous operations, and explore interactions between chemical process control and process system designs. Her work addresses critical national priorities in sustainable manufacturing, and the design of intelligent systems for applications across industries. 

In the six years since her arrival to Wayne State, Durand has earned four extramural grants, including a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator award. She has been invited to give many presentations for other scientists, including for peer institutions, student groups, workshops and companies, and has provided service and leadership to her research community through participation in AIChE meetings and conferences. Durand also received the 2022 Junior Faculty Award from the Wayne State Academy of Scholars. 

“Dr. Durand is a star that makes everyone around her shine a little brighter,” said Jeff Potoff, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. 

Durand has offered mentorship to many students at all academic levels, supporting women and people of historically marginalized backgrounds through research opportunities and community outreach initiatives. She engages with local middle and high school students during Wayne State’s annual STEM Days, and opens her lab to undergraduate students through Research Experiences for Undergraduates funding supplements obtained for her NSF grants. 

Kip Nieman first interacted with Durand in the fall of 2018 as an undergraduate in CHE 4200, where he worked on a simulation project using a software called Aspen to design and optimize plant layouts. The first in his family to pursue a bachelor’s degree, Nieman had never even considered graduate school. With Durand’s encouragement, however, he joined her research group in 2019 and is now a second-year Ph.D. candidate. 

“I know Dr. Durand to be an enthusiastic and engaged teacher, with an undeniably positive attitude and a true interest in helping others learn,” said Nieman. “I consider her to be a mentor and role model who I aspire to be like every day.” 

Durand came to Wayne State in 2017 after earning her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received several awards including the Edward K. Rice and the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department’s Outstanding Ph.D. student awards.

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