Alex Kauffman and James Trettin are co-recipients of the Lawrence E. Burkhart Memrorial Award for the spring 2021 commencement.
The honor is bestowed upon graduating seniors, who are named Outstanding Senior Student in Chemical Engineering, with emphasis on scholastic performance. Recipients are selected by department faculty. Burkhart, the award’s namesake, was a member of the department faculty from 1960-1988.
Kauffman, from Epworth, Iowa, is receiving a B.S. in chemical engineering and will graduate with summa cum laude honors and a perfect 4.0 grade point average. He is among the top two percent of graduates academically in the College of Engineering.
In addition to working toward his degree, he has spent much of the last year working part-time as a process development engineer with Renewable Energy Group (REG) of Ames, Iowa. He has been assembling and troubleshooting a pilot plant hydrotreater in conjunction with Iowa State University’s BioCentury Research Farm. This project is an important step for producing renewable diesel fuel, something Alex is passionate about along with other bio-renewable technologies.
Alex has also worked as an undergraduate research assistant at Iowa State, where he studied the characteristics of carbon-supported heterogenous catalysts with Dr. Brent Shanks. This work is driven by the need for more robust and selective catalysts for the future bio-refinery. There, he was involved with more than 450 hours of reactor operation on a liquid phase, packed bed reactor for the hydrogenation of acetophenone. Alex would like to give a special thanks to a former Ph.D. student from Shanks’ group, Alireza Saraeian, for being a fantastic engineering and life mentor while working together.
During his time in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering he also used a semester to take part in a co-op with LyondellBasell Industries in Houston, TX as well as interning with POET Biorefining in Scotland, S.D.
Alex has been part of the Tau Beta Bi engineering honor society; the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Iowa State student chapter; a member of Engineers Without Borders; and a member of the dean’s list since 2017.
He has received the Thor and Karen Hansen Scholarship, the Mike and Jean Steffenson Scholarship and the Beisner Scholar Award in the Department of Chemical Engineering.
Following graduation he will be employed as a process engineer with ADM in Southport, N.C.
Trettin, from Newton, Iowa, is receiving a B.S. in chemical engineering and will graduate with summa cum laude honors and a perfect 4.0 grade point average. He is among the top two percent of graduates academically in the College of Engineering.
He has been an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, working with Dr. Jean-Philippe Tessonnier. His research included creating novel biobased polymers to enhance the hydrophobicity of nylon and developing hydrophobicity testing methods. This work has led to three presentations: at the 14th ISU Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression in 2020; the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) 2020 Undergraduate Student Poster Competition; and at the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2020, where he was awarded the honor of Best Presentation – Materials Section.
James also participated in the Griswold Undergraduate Research Interns program, where students are paired with department faculty members for hands-on research work and are exposed to the topic of intellectual property in research. Through this program James studied electrochemical production of ammonia with Dr. Wenzhen Li and was also able to broaden his understanding of intellectual property.
James also spent a summer as an intern with Merck, Inc. in Mirabel, Riom, France, where he managed logistical systems, gained knowledge on procedures for vaccine and ophthalmic drug fabrication and dealt with international supply chains.
Trettin was an Iowa State Cardinal Leadership Scholar; a recipient of the Kenneth L. Garrett Scholarship in Chemical and Biological Engineering, and the Bob Kaiser Memorial Scholarship in Chemical Engineering.
He was a classroom assistant in the CBE department where he facilitated learning in the classroom and outside the classroom in help sessions; was a member of the AIChE Iowa State student chapter; was a member of Engineers Without Borders; and served as a volunteer for the Iowa Science Bowl.
His future plans are to attend Princeton University to pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, with a focus in catalysis or materials for renewable energy applications.