Published November 28, 2023
A successful transition to a sustainable, carbon-neutral society of the future requires unprecedented collaboration across multiple disciplines.
Recognizing this, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University at Buffalo sought applicants for a multi-departmental faculty cluster that will tackle key challenges in the broad area of clean energy. The cluster will emphasize multidisciplinary collaboration, both among faculty within this group and with existing colleagues across SEAS and UB. Continuing through 2024 and 2025, UB CBE will focus additional resources on recruiting faculty and growing research in clean energy.
Assistant Professor Kaihang Shi joined UB CBE this fall as the department’s 2023 Clean Energy faculty hire. His postdoctoral research was performed with Professor Randall Snurr at Northwestern University.
While there, he developed a physically inspired way to better represent nanoporous materials for machine learning using energy-based descriptors. Their team generated over 3 million simulated adsorption data points for a first-of-its-kind online adsorption database, MOFX-DB, which has been accessed by over 4,500 users from 75 countries (including leading companies such as Microsoft and IBM) since January 2020.
The database is facilitating data mining for high-performing materials to address global challenges. In close collaboration with experimental groups led by Professors Joseph Hupp and Omar Farha of Northwestern University, and Jörg Kärger, from Leipzig University, Shi also developed novel computational and mathematical tools that allow for the safe and efficient remediation of chemical warfare agents.
At UB CBE, Shi will launch his own research group in the area of computational engineering of nanoporous materials for energy, healthcare, and sustainability. His team will apply both physico-chemically-based models and sophisticated molecular simulations with machine-learning approaches to accelerate the development of new nanoporous materials that can address key technological challenges.
Aurora Munguia-Lopez, who will join the department in fall 2024, is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Her research focuses on Systems Engineering, Optimization, Sustainability, and Environmental Justice, integrating optimization, process modeling, and techno-economic and life cycle analysis into a computational framework to assess plastic upcycling technologies (e.g., solvent-based recycling and pyrolysis). Her approach has enabled quantification of economic and environmental benefits and helped guide both process and product design by identifying key bottlenecks (e.g., solvent selection, precipitation methods, and polymers with reduced environmental impact). She has already published 15 journal manuscripts, with seven more either under review or being prepared.
Upon joining, she will be able to take advantage of immediate opportunities to collaborate with RENEW, ISE, CSEE, faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Law School, the School of Management, and faculty being hired in UB’s new Sustainability & Clean Energy cluster.
Also joining in fall 2023 is Assistant Professor of Teaching Maura Sepsy. She will serve as an instructor for undergraduate courses, and contribute to essential departmental undergraduate activities such as preparation for ABET accreditation, advisement, ensuring student award success, diversity enhancement, and external educational grant support.
She is an essential addition to the UB CBE undergraduate education team as she will also develop and facilitate interactions with industry employers, government laboratories, and other academic institutions in support of student internships, co-op placements, and research experiences. She is a recent graduate of Case Western Reserve University, with a PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.