Connor Smith has been chosen as the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) Lawrence E. Burkhart Memorial Award recipient for the fall 2020 commencement.

Smith presnted with plaque by chair Andrew Hillier
Lawrence E. Burkhart Memorial Award recipient Connor Smith (left) is presented with his commemorative plaque by CBE’s Reginald R. Baxter Endowed Department Chair Andrew Hillier.

The honor is bestowed upon one graduating senior each semester, named Outstanding Senior Student in Chemical Engineering, with emphasis on scholastic performance. The recipient is selected by department faculty. Burkhart, the award’s namesake, was a member of the department faculty from 1960-1988.

Smith is receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and is graduating Summa Cum Laude.

While at Iowa State, he was a member of the prestigious Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and served as corporate liaison, where he contacted keynote speakers and made arrangements for them to make presentations at honor society meetings, and assisted with event planning, networking workshops, volunteering projects, and social events.

Smith also took advantage of experiences to advance important chemical engineering skills. He participated in undergraduate research in covalent organic framework catalysis under the guidance of Dr. Levi Stanley, as associate professor of chemistry. He was part of the Griswold Undergraduate Research Interns Program in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, which allows undergraduate students the opportunity to gain important hands-on laboratory experience working alongside department faculty members and graduate students. Smith studied with assistant professor and Karen and Dennis Vaughn Faculty Fellow Thomas Mansell to perform work in synthetic biology for human microbiome engineering. Smith would like to give a special thanks to Samuel Rothstein, a fall 2020 Ph.D. graduate from the Mansell Lab, for being a phenomenal mentor as well as a great friend.

In his senior year, Smith worked on a project for Mars Wrigley Confectionery, where he served as a part-time research and development engineering intern. His duties consisted of constructing and commissioning a pilot plant scale extraction process; designing experiments focused on reducing water usage for distillation; optimizing processing and raw material conditions for increased oil extraction; and creating a new standard for farmers regarding mint crop conditions during harvest.

Apart from engineering, Smith, who hails from Des Moines, also worked as a counselor with Iowa’s Ingawanis Camp with the Boy Scouts of America and a science tutor with the Bloomington, Minnesota Middle Schools. He enjoys hiking, camping, rock climbing, and long distance running. He would also like to give a special thanks to his ever-supportive fiancée Lauren, and their rapscallion dog, Max.

Following graduation he plans to seek a position as a full time research and development engineer, hopefully in the biotechnology or biomedical industry. Later plans include seeking a master’s degree or Ph.D. when he feels the time is right.


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