Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Top 20 Doctoral Program—National Research Council

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Student Spotlight

Meet Alexandra Lupulescu, PhD Candidate
Lupulescu

Alexandra Lupulescu is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the UH Department of Chemical Engineering. She performs research on Assistant Professor Jeffrey Rimer’s team, optimizing zeolites, a type of catalyst.

“Zeolites are crystalline materials that contain silica and alumina, which are used in a large variety of chemical processes throughout industry,” said Lupulescu. “We’re trying to change not the type of material but the overall shape, so that it can better serve its purposes. We’re going to use it for environmentally-friendly applications, like nitrogen oxide reduction, which in Houston is a pretty big issue.” Lupulescu recently co-authored a paper with Rimer, “Tailoring Silicalite-1 Crystal Morphology with Molecular Modifiers,” which was published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

As part of her regular lab techniques, Lupulescu uses atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and dynamic light scattering for zeolite crystallization analysis. “Because the scale that we’re working on for the zeolites is on the order of tens of microns, and they’re very anisotropic, I can’t measure them otherwise; I need a visual tool,” Lupulescu noted. “With atomic force microscopy, we’re excited because we’re trying to be the first to do in situ studies. Real-time zeolite growth rate is extremely slow, so it could take anywhere from ten to 20 hours to notice a 50 nanometer change in size. We’ve had to overcome a lot of issues from an instrumental standpoint.”

Lupulescu, originally from Romania, moved with her family to the US in 1997. “My parents are Ph.D.s; both of them were professors at one time, and they pushed me in the Ph.D. direction, but in terms of my field, I actually started out in mechanical engineering,” she said. Lupulescu’s first semester as an undergraduate at Tulane University was put on hold by Hurricane Katrina, so she went back to her hometown of Troy, N.Y. to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

When she returned to Tulane the next semester, she found out that her program had been cut due to budget restrictions. “Everything was gone, except chemical and biomedical engineering, so I just switched to chemical engineering,” she said. After Lupulescu received her bachelor’s in chemical engineering, she visited UH on the recommendation of the department chair at Tulane, who knew the UH chemical engineering department chair, Professor Ramanan Krishnamoorti.

“I really liked UH, and for personal and educational reasons I came here,” Lupulescu said. “I started in the fall of 2009 and it was around the same time that Dr. Rimer started here. It’s been a really good experience. I’ve been very impressed with the quality of teachers here, and the research.”

Lupulescu plans to work in industry after she completes her Ph.D., which will allow her the flexibility of working for various projects for a wide range of companies. “I hope to stay in the catalysis field and work on energy or environmental-related projects,” she said.

For more information (undergraduate studies)

Please contact:
vellison [at] central [dot] uh [dot] edu (Veronica Ellison)
Dept. of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
University of Houston
S222 Engineering Bldg 1,
Houston, TX 77204-4004
phone: 713-743-4957
Campus Map

For more information (graduate studies)

Please contact:
Graduate Studies Coordinator
Dept. of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
University of Houston
S222 Engineering Bldg 1,
Houston, TX 77204-4004
phone: 713-743-4311
email: grad-che [at] uh [dot] edu
Campus Map

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