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Marquis Scholar Gregory Lapp ’06 (Lancaster, Pa.) is conducting cutting edge research for a long-term project aimed at producing better diesel fuel. His work is guided by Javad Tavakoli, associate professor of chemical engineering, who has been collaborating with students on this topic for several years. The project is near completion, and has the potential to be published in a scientific journal and implemented.

The basic mission of Lapp’s research is to create a catalyst that will convert methanol to dimethoxymethane (DMM) via methanol oxidation in a single step opposed to the current two-step industrial process.

“The tricky part is getting a high selectivity towards DMM,” he explains. “Many other products can be formed during methanol oxidation, but we want a catalyst that only produces DMM. After finding a good catalyst, we will analyze it and try to define why it works as opposed to other catalysts.”

While it may seem like a mouthful, it’s more of a mindful. Tavakoli notes the research is interesting because it deals with a subject of which everyone can relate.

“We’re trying to find a better, cleaner type of fuel,” he says.

Lapp first joined the project last summer and presented his research in the fall at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. He praises Lafayette for the opportunity to continue the work as a senior project.

Lapp is among 40 students who have earned the distinction of being invited to make presentations on their scholarly research at the 20th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research April 6-8.

“The fact that I am able to do an honors thesis in chemical engineering with my own research is fairly unique to Lafayette,” he says. “At a larger university, the range of research topics that the professors are promoting may be larger due to the increased size of the faculty, but as an undergraduate I am able to work one-on-one with a faculty adviser far outweighs this negative.”

“A lot of schools our size or smaller do not get the funding to make this type of research possible,” he adds. “[That makes] Lafayette an ideal place for an undergraduate researcher.”

Honors theses are among several major programs that have made Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. The College sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Lafayette a grant for state-of-the-art equipment allowing professors and students to conduct “green” (environmentally friendly) research, which propelled Lafayette’s chemical engineering labs up to the standards of top research institutions.

Lapp is a member of the Lafayette Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Marquis Players, a charity theater group, and the Arts Society. He also performs with four college singing groups, the Pep Band, pit orchestra, concert band, and serves as an usher at the Williams Center for the Arts.

Chosen from among Lafayette’s most promising applicants, Marquis Scholars like Lapp receive a special academic scholarship and distinctive educational experiences and benefits, including a three-week, Lafayette-funded course abroad or in the United States during January’s interim session between semesters or the summer break. Marquis Scholars also participate in mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty and cultural activities in major cities and on campus.

Categorized in: Academic News