CBE’s John Kaiser and students are beneficiaries of his former employer’s generosity

John Kaiser with van loaded with donated equipment
CBE’s John Kaiser has overseen several trips to the eastern U.S. to pick up lab equipment donated by Mars Wrigley Confections.

The spirit of giving isn’t just limited to the holiday season! That’s what Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) Professor of Practice John Kaiser has experienced recently with the help of generous benefactors at his former employer, Mars Wrigley Confections.

Kaiser, who earned an M.S. in chemical engineering at Iowa State, spent nearly 30 years of his career in the food industry with Mars Chocolate, now Mars Wrigley Confectionery (learn more about Kaiser’s background in a 2018 department news release). His longtime employer has been playing “Santa Claus” with the donation of a large amount of laboratory equipment in three separate batches, all of which will be used in the education of ISU undergraduates in CBE and also in the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition (FSHN).

Students with thermal gravimetric analysis unit
CBE undergrads Madi Parks and Alex Buckley use a Mars Wrigley-donated thermal gravimetric analysis unit in a Sweeney Hall lab.

The donated equipment has an estimated value of more than $750,000. But the value to students gaining important hands-on experience with the department programs is immeasurable.

The donation includes a variety of analytical research equipment, including gas chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography units (to allow chemical separations of gasses and liquids in laboratory work); equipment for thermal gravimetric analysis (which measures physical and chemical changes in materials as a function of temperature); temperature-controlled incubators

Student with high performance liquid chromatography equpment
Jared Greiner poses with high performance liquid chromatography units donated by Mars Wrigley and recently moved into a Sweeney Hall lab.

(important for such functions as controlled cell growth); a Fourier-transform infra-red spectrophotometer (used in the chemical characterization of solid, liquid, and gasses); a spray dryer (which involves the atomization of a liquid feed into very small droplets within a hot drying gas, leading to flash drying of the droplets into solid particles); and a wide variety of miscellaneous lab supplies.

The equipment came from two different Mars Wrigley facilities in New Jersey and a facility in Pennsylvania, and was transported back to Iowa State by Kaiser, his wife, Colleen, and Micah Rasmussen and Victor Sanfins Cecon with Iowa State’s Department of FSHN.

Student using chocolate temper meter donated by Mars
This chocolate temper meter donated by Mars Wrigley will help Kaiser lab students in their work with chocolate. Student Raven Stevens is shown with the meter.

Kaiser plans to use this equipment to help deliver the ChE 499, “Applied Industry Research for Process Engineers” course that he offers. Companies sign up and provide semester-long engineering projects for the students. They work hand-in-hand with company officials, normally in teams. This course provides hands-on experiences for students and important professional development as part of an on-campus course.

Two students using freeze-dryer in lab
Greiner and Buckley use a freeze dryer donated by Mars Wrigley.

Kaiser says he has been moved by Mars Wrigley’s generosity throughout this process and admires the company’s dedication to helping the education of future chemical engineers: “Although I retired from Mars Wrigley four years ago, I’m very humbled that the company is showing such support for my educational efforts at Iowa State. I would never have thought that the relationship would have grown this much after leaving!” 


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