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UTC chemical engineering graduate earns research award in national competition

Stephanie Wilson photo

Moving toward her lifelong goal to have a research career in the field of bioengineering, Stephanie Wilson, a December 2006 engineering graduate from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, recently participated in a national undergraduate student research poster competition in San Francisco, California.  Competing against students from California Institute of Technology, Vanderbilt University, and Georgia Institute of Technology, Wilson took second place in the Biotechnology, Food, and Pharmaceutical division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers 2006 Annual Conference.

“This competition gave me the chance to find out where I stand and what I need to do to go further.  Placing in the competition will undoubtedly help me be accepted to a good graduate school,” said Wilson.   

“A Study of the Effects of Various Flow Obstructions on Micromixing and Heterogeneous Catalysis in Biocatalytic Microchannels” was part of Wilson’s departmental honors thesis work.  The research involves microtechnology, enzymes, mixing, and environmental issues. 

“I am pleased to see Stephanie receive national recognition for her undergraduate research project on micro-reactors.  Applications of this technology can lead to the miniaturization of biomedical devices necessary for commercial product development,” said J. Ronald Bailey, PhD, P.E., Interim Chief Research Officer, Guerry Professor and Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Additionally, Wilson’s findings are applicable in the design of artificial organs, the production of biodiesel fuel, and the biological breakdown of pollutants in waste water. 

Wilson was hired by Dr. Frank Jones, who directs the Microbioreactor Research Group at UTC.  There, she used computational simulation to model and study the effect of design variations on reactor efficiency.  

“In dealing with the microscale, design variations have a dramatic affect on how well a reactor will work,” Wilson said.  “My findings indicate that microbioreactor production efficiency may be increased by as much as 150% in some cases due to design improvements.”

Students in the UTC engineering program are often required to speak before a panel of professors or students, so Wilson said she was prepared by her University education. She presented her research four times before she attended the conference, including once to the Chattanooga Engineers Club.  As a member of the University Honors Program, Wilson was also required to defend her research thesis.  

“These experiences make you an expert on your research because your ideas and findings are publicly questioned by a multitude of people from varying backgrounds,” Wilson said. 

December 18, 2006