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U Chemical Engineering is 5th in U.S. Funding Department Climbs to 13th Nationally in Research Spending

November 11, 2002 — The University of Utah Department of Chemical and Fuels Engineering has climbed to fifth place nationally in research funding received from the federal government, rising from eighth place a year earlier and 13th place two years ago.

“I am very proud of our department not only for moving into the top 10 but staying there and continuing to improve our position,” says Philip J. Smith, the department chair. “This makes a big difference to our competitive position, not only in attracting future funding but in attracting good students and faculty.”

The annual rankings were compiled by Chemical & Engineering News, which published them in its Oct. 28, 2002 issue.

The latest rankings, covering the year 2000, show the U’s Department of Chemical and Fuels Engineering received almost $5.5 million in federal funding for the year, ranking fifth behind chemical engineering departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($10.1 million), Pennsylvania State University ($8.5 million), North Carolina State University at Raleigh ($6.2 million) and the University of Minnesota ($5.7 million).

The University of Utah department ranked higher than counterparts at such prestigious universities as Stanford, Johns Hopkins and Cal Tech.

The department had ranked in eighth place in federal funding in 1999 and in 13th place in 1998.

Chemical & Engineering News also showed that the U’s Department of Chemical and Fuels Engineering climbed from 20th place in 1999 to 13th place in 2000 when it came to total spending on chemical engineering research.

Smith said the department has four major areas of research emphasis:

— Combustion research focusing on how to burn coal in a more efficient, less polluting manner, and on studies aimed as preventing accidental fires, particularly involving diesel and jet fuel conflagrations during freeway vehicle collisions and plane crashes on aircraft carriers or elsewhere.

— Petroleum and fuels research, including development of new alternative fuels from biomass such as agricultural waste, corn and grasses, and “reservoir engineering,” which aims to improve oil and gas extraction from underground deposits or reservoirs.

— Biomolecular engineering, including development of new synthetic materials compatible with the body, and of new ways to deliver drugs to targeted areas within the body, such as tumors.

— Materials science engineering, including developing new ceramics, devising new ways of making smaller silicon chips for computers, and creating computer software that can replace actual measurements of materials with calculations of their properties – a necessary step toward fabricating any material.