of chemical engineering alums
CyberChemics Inc. and Argonne National Laboratory received 1998
Discover Awards from Discover Magazine. CyberChemics,
a company cofounded by David Noever '84, received the
award for Technological Innovation in the category of computer
software for its drug discovery method. Argonne National Laboratories
received the Environment Technology Innovation award for research
headed by Rathin Datta *72 *74 that led to the development
of economical plant-based solvents.
It's not Rolling
Stone, but David Noever '84, made the cover. He received
his B.S.E. in chemical engineering from Princeton University
and his Ph.D. degree in theoretical physics from Oxford
Called in virtuo discovery, the computer software developed
by CyberChemics works on the principle that drug discovery can
be conducted most effectively by encoding the drugs themselves
as strands of genetic code, then allowing this digital DNA to
compete until natural selection arrives at the eventual best
"In the design of new medicine, it has been fascinating to watch
evolution at work," Dr. Noever said. "Before putting an engineer's
precision to the final drug candidate, we first let breeding
and the biology itself go to work."
CyberChemics employs powerful computer methods for identifying
active treatments using its in virtuo screening, which
takes the traditional in vitro and in vivo models
of drug discovery into a more highly flexible and scalable technology.
Since the computer can pinpoint the essential chemical features
underlying potent therapeutics, the methods can address potentially
large markets with unmet clinical needs.
The Discover Award winners were profiled in the July issue of
Discover and Dr. Noever was featured on the cover.
"The Discover Award is a terrific honor to CyberChemics," said
Dr. Noever, a Rhodes Scholar and recipient of the Royal Society's
Silver Medal (London).
Dr. Noever has authored more than 80 journal articles and book
chapters, focused on the applications of computer modeling to
complex system design. He received his B.S.E. in chemical engineering
from Princeton and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Oxford
More information about the company and the Discover Award is
available through CyberChemics
on the internet.
Environment Technology Innovation
Millions of pounds of toxic industrial solvents--many of which
wind up polluting the environment--could be replaced by "environmentally
friendly" solvents thanks to a new cost-cutting process codeveloped
by Dr. Datta, a chemical engineer at Argonne National Laboratories.
Lactate esters, solvents made from cornstarch or sugar, are
nontoxic, biodegradable, and have excellent solvent properties
and, while they have been around for years, the production costs
were too high to make them economically competitive with lower-priced
Each year, the United States uses more than 3.8 million tons
of toxic solvents. According to industry estimates, lactate
ester solvents can replace more than 80 percent of these applications,
provided that they are priced competitively with conventional
Argonne's new production technology has shattered the old price
barrier; lactate esters produced via this method are expected
to cost $1 per pound or less. The process requires little energy
input, is highly efficient and selective, and eliminates the
large volumes of salt waste produced by conventional processes.
Dr. Datta and his fellow researchers began laboratory work on
the project in 1993. A U.S. patent was issued in March of this
year. The technology has been licensed, and a joint venture
is being formed with several industrial partners. The U.S. Army
and other agencies have indicated strong interest in developing
programs to formulate lactate esters as a solvent replacement
for many of the halogenated solvents currently in use.
This innovation was also awarded a Presidential Green Chemistry
Challenge Award. More information about this research can be
found at the Argonne
National Laboratory online.
AIAA recognizes MAE excellence
The awards ceremony sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics
and Astronautics at the 34th Joint Propulsion Conference was
dominated by alumni from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering (MAE). Two of the top three AIAA technical awards
went to SEAS alumni--the third went to MAE Professor Irvin
Glassman (see story). Two
of the five AIAA Best Paper Awards were shared by SEAS alumni
Joseph A. Schetz *62 received the Air Breathing Propulsion
Award in recognition "as a world-renowned researcher in the
field of air breathing propulsion working in the areas of ramjets/scramjets,
base burning, and turbine engine aerodynamics and heat." Professor
Schetz is the J. Byron Maupin Professor of Aerospace Engineering
at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Professor
Schetz received his master's degree and Ph.D. in mechanical
engineering from Princeton.
Herman Krier *69 received the Wyld Propulsion Award,
which is presented for outstanding achievement in the development
or application of rocket propulsion systems. Professor Krier,
who is a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial
Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
was cited "for outstanding contributions in analytical and experimental
studies of solid propellant combustion mechanisms and advancing
the understanding of combustion stability of solid rocket motors."
Professor Krier received his master's degree and Ph.D. in mechanical
and aerospace engineering.
Michael M. Micci *81 and his co-workers at Pennsylvania
State University received the Best Paper Award in Propellants
and Combustion for their paper Molecular Dynamic Modeling
of Supercritical LOX Evaporation. Dr. Micci, an associate
professor in the department of Aerospace Engineering at Penn
State, earned his master's degree and Ph.D. in mechanical and
Jay Polk *96 and his co-workers from the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, of which he is head, and from NASA Lewis Research
Center received the Best Paper Award in Electric Propulsion
for their paper The Effect of Engine Wear on Performance
in the NSTAR 8000 Hour Ion Endurance Test. Dr. Polk earned
his master's degree and Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
The AIAA Best Paper Awards are selected by the respective technical
committees and recognize technical and scientific excellence.
The conference was held in July.
previous story ]
story ] [
top of page ]