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Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Qian Xu, reports from 2017 AIChE Annual Meeting

30 Nov 2017

Qian Xu was awarded the Messel Travel Bursary to attend 2017 AIChE Annual Meeting 29 October – 03 November 2017. Here, she tells us how attending the conference was an excellent opportunity to discuss her work with academics from Harvard, MIT, UCLA, Yale and senior experts from the industry.

‘I am currently a final year DPhil student in the Engineering Science department at the University of Oxford. During my research studies, I have published 4 academic journal papers, including ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, Journal of Engineering Mathematics, Journal of Membrane Science, and CIESC Journal. My research focuses on the direct-flow hollow fibre membrane filtration for water treatment, which is a very new technique that will benefit worldwide water treatment industry, especially in developing countries. The direct-flow devices are increasingly used as an intermediate or complete water purification technique in the water industry because the pores of ultrafiltration membrane are small enough to effectively filter viral contaminants as required by tightened regulatory standards. The growth in the billion dollar membranes-for-water market has been phenomenal and is particularly strong in Asia. However, with regard to direct-flow devices there have been few studies of its flow regimes and filtration behaviour. This limits its uptake, and the upgrading of treatment processes in the existing water industry, and my overall DPhil study is filling this gap. Therefore I was very keen to share my research works to people who work in the relevant field and gain valuable comments.

‘AIChE is the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, with more than 50,000 members from over 100 countries, it has the breadth of resources and expertise all chemical engineers need whether in core process industries or academic researches. AIChE Annual Meeting is one of the world’s premier educational forums for us chemical engineers who are interested in innovation and professional growth. During AIChE Annual Meeting, academic and industry experts cover a wide range of topics relevant to cutting-edge research, new technologies, and emerging growth areas in chemical engineering. Therefore, I decided to present my recent research study, The Time Evolution of Fouling Development upon Design Aspects of Direct-Flow Filtration, in AIChE Annual Meeting 2017 in Minneapolis, MN, USA.

‘When I arrived in the conference centre for registration, I immediately had the feeling that this trip is worth it. From the programme book, I found out there will be over 5,500 presentations taking place during the week and there are more than 7,000 attendees here. It feels like heaven for chemical engineers. Specifically, there are a number of world well-known professions in my research field, membrane based separations, presenting their recent research works. Some of them are from the research groups that I have cited in my past papers. I was totally excited about the following week and I even made myself a timetable to attend interested sessions for the week.

‘During the full scheduled week, I had chances to discuss my work with academics from Harvard, MIT, UCLA, Yale, etc. Also, I had the opportunity to meet the authors of highly cited papers in my research field, i.e. Vicky Chen, Bill Koros, George Belfort, Nils Tilton, Xianghong Qian. Surprisingly, I even had a chat with Jay Werber, who studies in the research group of Menachem Elimelech. Professor Elimelech is one of those top cited authors in my field. We discussed Professor Elimelech’s research, how big his group is, and we also discussed the opportunity to apply for postdocs in his group. Apart from attending membrane based separation sessions, I also went to a few sessions on environmental related topics. During the evening, there were various receptions and sessions to meet people from industries, which also shared interesting experiences from various field.

‘Early on the Wednesday afternoon, I had my presentation in the session of Water Treatment, Desalination, and Reuse II. My talk had been divided into three parts, including a background introduction of my previous research, a detailed description of how we developed our fouling model, and how did our research results accord with industrial practice. Overall, the talk went well and I had two questions from the audiences, which offered me various perspectives and insights into my future studies. After the session, some audience members also provided valuable comments on our research, which also encouraged me staying as an academic after my DPhil degree continuing to contribute to the water industry research.

‘After 5 days attending the presentation sessions, I also had a chance to visit the city. Minneapolis is a place where artistic atmosphere exists in every corner. There are buildings with graffiti walls, where I observed paintings of piano tablature, famous stars, and sandy beaches. It was a very nice city to visit even in winter.

‘In conclusion, my visit to Minneapolis and my attendance at the AIChE Annual Meeting 2017 was an unforgettable experience, which I will value for both my academic research studies and future career choices. Attending a big conference like this is definitely the best way to meet and talk to other researchers throughout the world. I am very grateful to my supervisor Professor Robert W. Field for supporting me to attend this conference. And I would like to thank the SCI Messel bursary awards for providing the funding support for this conference trip. I will also recommend to my colleagues and friends to apply and join SCI for their academic benefits.’

Qian Xu
PhD Student
the University of Oxford

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