ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERING

Ph.D., chemical engineering, Michigan State University

What I’m teaching: 

Thermodynamics

What I’m researching:

“I’ve been working a lot on thermodynamic modeling, specifically improving the modeling of interactions between molecules. These interactions often make it difficult to predict the behavior of chemical systems. I’ve been focusing on hydrogen bonding because it’s very prevalent in the chemical industry, so anywhere where’s there is water, organic acids and alcohols there’s going to be hydrogen bonding. You’d think at this point that we’d have a very good understating of it, but we don’t. My research has been to model what the molecules are doing and then how that manifests itself as changes in bigger properties like temperature, pressure, and density. The reason why all this is important is when the thermodynamic modeling part of a process design is weak, it leads to increased development time and costs, which in the chemical industry is huge. The fun part and the complicated part is that this is everywhere, from biofuel processing to polymers and plastics and even drug design. Hydrogen bonding happens at the microscopic level. It’s everywhere and in everything — that’s the exciting part but also what makes it complicated.”

What drew me to Lafayette?

“It was really about how nice people are here in this community. For somebody who came from a bigger school and who did their undergrad in a big school it was interesting for me to see the interaction between faculty and students in the hallways. They knew each other so well, the faculty knew the names of their students, which to me is unheard of. Also for engineering to be in a liberal arts setting is incredibly rare.”

What students can expect:

“I’m new to teaching, so this is very exciting for me. I’m huge on in-class activities. I really don’t like the sit-and-lecture type classes, although in chemical engineering it’s unavoidable to some degree because the subject is so technical. But I’m trying to reduce that degree as much as possible. In class activities, I try to get students to learn from each other because peer learning is important. Learning from each other is more fun and engaging for them and they learn better.”

Aseel BalaWhat I’m holding:

“I brought a photo of my mom in a lab doing her own Ph.D. research. She did her doctorate in physiology at the University of Birmingham in the 80s. I think this photo is stellar because it combines the two things I like—science and family. It’s both personally and professionally meaningful.

What’s not on my CV:

“All of my hobbies and activities are very geeky in nature. I enjoy trivia, board games, and Sudoku puzzles. It’s probably why I like thermodynamics, because it’s a huge puzzle.

Categorized in: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Engineering, New Faculty

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