Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

At the heart of most chemical processes is a reaction, and understanding reactions is crucial to designing those that work.

That’s why a Lafayette chemical engineering student was studying kinetics, or the rate at which chemical reactions occur, in summer research on campus.

Samira Tinorgah ’03 (Accra, Ghana), a participant in Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholar program, used a computer technique called Monte Carlo to conduct simulated experiments evaluating models that seek to predict the speed of various reactions.

In EXCEL, students assist faculty members with research while earning a stipend. Tinorgah worked with S. Scott Moor, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

According to Moor, understanding reactions is important to chemical engineers because it helps them generate a good product with a sufficient yield and prevent unsafe situations. “An explosion is just an extremely fast reaction,” Moor points out.

In kinetics experiments, he says, scientists observe how quickly the reacting substance disappears, and how the volume of materials affects the speed of the reaction.

In making predictions, he and Tinorgah considered physical laws and “air,” and built in a degree of error as they wrote equations and calculated results.

“We completed the first round of work on simple kinetic models,” Moor says. “There have been some interesting, unexpected results.”

Tinorgah says the professor is great and agrees that the project went going well.

“The only bumps were that my program ran much slower than I had anticipated, so I spent many days just babysitting computers,” she says. “We made a whole lot of changes to the original rate law, and I went through the summary data to draw out some conclusions.”

The student says the project combines aspects of both her chemical engineering major and computer science minor — “I couldn’t ask for anything better” — and is preparing her for a chemical engineering class she is taking this semester.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to use skills learned through class to do something practical, something of realistic relevance,” says Tinorgah. “I didn’t think I had enough background to begin with, but you learn as you go, and I have learned so much over the summer. Lafayette is a great learning environment. I am an international student, so Lafayette has literally become my home.”

A graduate of Achimota Senior Secondary School in Accra, Ghana, Tinorgah is treasurer of the African and Caribbean Students Association. She is also active in the International Students Association and the Association of Black Collegians. She tutors chemistry and is a coordinator for the brown bag lecture series sponsored by the Lafayette chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Categorized in: Academic News