Chemical Engineering

Who we are

We work hard to shape scientific minds in a familial, friendly, tight-knit atmosphere. You’ll be made to feel welcome from the very first day, forming strong bonds with your professors and fellow students that will benefit you professionally and personally.

What we do

In focused research groups, students and faculty within WPI’s Chemical Engineering Department go beyond the classroom to solve real-world problems, continuing to make discoveries in areas like environmental protection, renewable energy, and life sciences, through research and development of new technologies, processes, and materials.

New Faculty Search

Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Robotics Engineering Program invite applications for a tenure-track faculty position at the Assistant Professor level. Candidates should be interdisciplinary-minded and have a PhD in Chemical Engineering, Robotics, Biomedical Engineering, Materials or a closely related discipline. We especially encourage applicants with an expertise in soft robotics, with backgrounds or interests in studying chemical and biochemical processes and approaches for the advancement of robotics science, engineering and applications.

Faculty Highlights and Research

Professor Susan Zhou on Designing Biosensors

Researchers in the lab of Professor Hong Susan Zhou are developing a biosensor that doctors and nurses can use to quickly detect Clostridium difficile, a dangerous and sometimes fatal gastrointestinal infection. The sensor is designed to be the heart of a handheld device that can be used onsite in doctor’s offices and nursing homes, providing results in minutes instead of days, avoiding the need to send samples out to commercial labs, and making it possible to start treatment earlier, when it is likelier to be more successful. Read more here.

Jennifer Wilcox on Climate Change

Forbes published an interview with Jennifer Wilcox, the James H. Manning Chaired Professor of Chemical Engineering, in which she discussed the cost and impact of climate change, and emerging technologies to help slow it.

Professor Wilcox's research program focuses on mitigating and adapting to climate change. This includes the capture and sequestration of trace metals and carbon dioxide. She takes a multiscale approach, partnering with government labs and industry to investigate phenomena from atomistic to plant scale. She has earned many awards for her work, including the NSF CAREER award and the 2017 Arthur C. Stern award for Distinguished Paper.

Mike Timko putting "Red Mud" to work, converting food waste into biofuels

In a high-profile paper, among the top ten articles published in the open-access journal Energies, Michael Timko, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, discusses work by a team of colleagues to greatly improve the yield of oil from the waste food conversion process while also improving efficiencies. The work featured a tem of WPI graduate students and an MQP group. The work is funded by the Department of Energy.

WPI Biofuel Research - April 6th, 2018

Manning Chair Jennifer Wilcox gives TED Talk on Carbon Capture

Jennifer Wilcox is the James H. Manning Chaired Professor of Chemical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In her TED talk, she introduces her research on carbon scrubbing at scale using chemical reactions that mimic plant carbon capture. 

Professor Wilcox's research program broadly focuses on mitigating and adapting to climate change. This includes the capture and sequestration of trace metals (mercury, arsenic, and selenium) and carbon dioxide. She takes a multiscale approach, partnering with government labs and industry to investigate phenomena from atomistic to plant scale. She has earned many awards for her work, including the NSF CAREER award and the 2017 Arthur C. Stern award for Distinguished Paper.


A new way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere | Jennifer Wilcox

Professor Zhou receives NSF Award

WPI Chemical Engineering Professor Hong Susan Zhou has received an NSF award for her project titled "Rapid, Sensitive, and Convenient Toxin Detection of C. difficile in a Low-cost Acrylic Microfluidic Platform." Clostridium difficile is the most common infectious cause of diarrhea in hospitalized patients. Current commercially available tests for Clostridium difficile cannot meet all the requirements of being rapid, low cost, sensitive, and selective. This proposed project will develop portable, easy-to-fabricate acrylic microfluidic devices based on novel electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) analysis of Clostridium difficile enabled by nanospiked electrode surfaces. Such electrodes will likely enhance the sensitivity thanks to the high area-to-volume ratio and small size of nanospikes on the surface.

Dean Terri Camesano receives Fulbright Scholarship

Terri Camesano, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Dean of Graduate Studies, received a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. Sara Olson, a WPI faculty in Mathematical Sciences, was also awarded. Congratulations to both professors! Read more here.

Research Article receives 2018 Paper Award

Nikolaos Kazantzis, Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, recently co-authored a paper titled "Incorporation of Safety and Sustainability in Conceptual Design via a Return on Investment Metric" in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. The article received the 2018 Paper Award from the Sustainable Engineering Forum (SEF), a Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) focusing on sustainability-relevant engineering science and practices. Congratulations Professor Kazantzis!

Professor Roberts on improving anticancer drug production

Department of Chemical Engineering Professor Sue Roberts, Department Head, was recently highlighted in the Worcester Telegram! The new genetic engineering technique developed by her research group could improve plant cell based production of the important anticancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol). For more, see the WPI News article associated with the research.

Professor Deskins receives two NSF research awards

Professor Deskins, in collaboration with WPI Mechanical Engineering Professor Pratap Rao, received NSF funding for  “Engineering Charge Transport through Directed Orientation of Transition Metal Dichalcogenide Catalysts." This work will increase the efficiency of catalysts for the production and utilization of carbon-free or carbon-neutral fuels via electrical-to-chemical and solar-to-chemical processes.

Professor Deskins, in collaboration with Professor Xiaowei Teng at the University of New Hampshire, also received funding for “Hydrogen Production via Highly Efficient Electrochemical Reforming of Ethanol in a Proton Exchange Membrane Cell.” This work will lead to efficient, cleaner methods to produce hydrogen, a valuable fuel and chemical feedstock.

Professor Datta demonstrates new membrane technology for hydrogen fuel cells

Separation membranes hold the key to making hydrogen fuel cheaper; in a pioneering study, the researchers show that membranes made with liquid metals appear to be more efficient at separating hydrogen than conventional palladium membranes while also being less expensive and more durable. Read more here!

Faculty Snapshot: Stephen J. Kmiotek

WPI Chemical Engineering Professor of Practice Stephen Kmiotek was recently featured in the WPI Journal.  Click here to learn about hard hats, riding camels, and his minions!

Fostering the Entrepreneurial Mindset in STEM

Chemical Engineering Professor David DiBiasio and colleagues at WPI with sponsorship from the KERN Foundation are leading efforts to introduce entrepreneurial training into WPI’s STEM curricula and project based learning.

The Entrepreneurially Minded Culture at WPI

WPI Chemical Engineers are making beautiful music in the name of science

STEM program connects young students to complex, hard to visualize concepts through sound.

As part of the STEM for All video showcase, a team of three WPI professors discuss the development of a data sonification tool for young students.

Michael Timko, Asst. Professor of Chemical Engineering, Erin Ottmar, Asst. Professor of Psychology and Learning Sciences, and V. J. Manzo Asst. Professor of Music Technology and Cognition collaborated to make data-driven music.

Linking a Science Background with an Engineering Future

If you're looking for a way to connect your undergraduate science skills with a graduate degree in chemical engineering, WPI's new Pathway to Chemical Engineering course will help. This one-semester gives you an engineering foundation, so you'll can begin your graduate studies without spending extra time and money on more undergraduate coursework.

Chemical Engineering Student Highlights

WPI Students win National AIChE Awards

Emily Whittles, class of 2021, has been awarded the 2017-18 Freshman Recognition Award for the WPI student chapter based on her leadership and involvement in the chapter during her freshman year.

Trent Jones, class of 2020, has been awarded the 2017-18 Donald F. Othmer Sophomore Academic Excellence Award for the WPI chapter based on his high academic standing and his involvement in the chapter. 

Celeste Marsan, class of 2019, has been awarded the prestigious 2017-2018 Donald F. & Mildred Topp Othmer Scholarship Award.  She is one of 15 students to receive this nationally and is awarded based on the combination of her high academic standing and her leadership within AIChE. 

Congratulations to each of you!

WPI Students Launch AMProtection

WPI’s superstar researchers Lindsay Lozeau and Todd Alexander never pictured themselves as cofounders of a company that is poised to change the way the medical community considers stopping infections. Yet here they are.

Their company, AMProtection, has gone through a few changes and pivots to arrive at this point—starting down the road to bring to market a urinary catheter with antimicrobial peptides that will reduce infections without increasing antibiotic resistance. Eventually such a device could save patients the painful and sometimes lethal infections that can happen from catheters.

WPI Insider: Celeste Marsan '19

WPI Chemical Engineering major Celeste Marsan '19, who recently completed an Amgen scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley, was recently featured in WPI Insider! Check out the full article here.

WPI Students attend NSBE 44

The WPI Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers attended NSBE44 in Pittsburgh, PA in March. Several outstanding WPI ChE students attended. WPI NSBE members got a lot out of the conference, a handful of them securing interviews and learning a lot from the variety of workshops!

Degrees & Certificates

Area of Study Bachelor Minor Certificate Master PhD

In the News

This article was featured in the Worcester Business Journal. The research by Hong Susan Zhou, associate professor of chemical engineering, has led to a biosensor that could be used to quickly detect C. diff bacteria. Zhou is principal investigator for the biosensor research program, and Yuxiang (Shawn) Liu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is co-PI.

Worcester Business Journal

National Public Radio's Morning Edition interviewed Jen Wilcox, the James H. Manning Professor of Chemical Engineering, for this article. “Certainly, in light of the recent climate reports, we don't have the option of simply avoiding carbon emissions any more. We now are at a point where we need to start removing CO2 directly from the atmosphere,” said Wilcox, an internationally renowned expert on capturing and storing carbon dioxide and other fossil fuel pollutants.

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