Sharing that “ah hah” moment with a student struggling and suddenly mastering a difficult concept; helping expand the intellectual horizons of an aspiring engineer; tackling and solving problems that challenge the energy, economic, and environmental security with passionate students; sharing my passion for engineering science: these are the reasons that I am a professor of chemical engineering. WPI students understand the importance of translating their engineering talents into technologies and knowledge that benefit others. My role is to light the fire and open new doors for budding engineers.
The stereotypical view of a scientist or engineer is as a solitary figure, toiling away in the lab. And, if this were true, I’d never have become an engineer because nothing could be further from the truth. I thrive on interactions with my colleagues and students – especially students. I enjoy “talking shop”, whether it be to solve a specific problem we’ve encountered in the lab, to thrash out the details of a new technology, or to take a step back and consider the broader implications and context of our work. Interaction with talented, passionate people who have a different view points and skills than I have is what drives me in this field.
My research interests include the studying the environmental and engineering aspects of clean energy technologies, with a specific emphasis on liquid transportation fuels. Liquid transportation fuels are derived nearly exclusively from petroleum resources – these resources are finite, distributed un-evenly around the world, and their combustion contributes to many different environmental problems. My work involves studying the fundamental chemical engineering science – including transport, phase behavior, and reactor design – to develop new technologies for converting under-utilized energy resources into fuels and chemicals. Specific problems of interest are ones that combine concepts from various sub-disciplines – such as phase equilibria and reaction mechanism analysis – into an integrated process technology. I firmly believe that solving the truly pressing technology problems of the 21st century will require cross-disciplinary collaboration – engineers, chemists, physicists, biologists, etc. Incorporating imaginative collaborations into my work has been and will continue to be a driving force.
Professional Highlights & Honors
Martha Stewart Living cited work by Associate Chemical Engineering Professor Michael Timko in their online article. “What do you get when you mix food and yard waste? Hopefully a new eco-friendly source of biofuel. Michael Timko, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, Massachusetts, is working on a project—being funded by the Department of Energy to the tune of almost $2 million—to mix food waste with municipal green waste, such as yard trimmings, leaves, and sticks. By combining the two kinds of waste, Timko is aiming to create even more energy-dense oil that can be upgraded to a liquid biofuel.”
Nearly 80 media outlets, reported on research projects led by Michael Timko, associate professor of chemical engineering; Aaron Deskins, associate professor of chemical engineering; and Nikolaos Kazantzis, professor of chemical engineering, that explore finding applications for nitrogen-rich waste products and converting marine plastics into ship fuel.