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Richardson Travel Bursary winner, Samir Diab, reports from Pittsburgh

Samir Diab

9 Jul 2019

Samir Diab was awarded the Richardson Travel Bursary to attend the 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, USA. Here he tells us how the experience provided an opportunity for him to develop his presentation and communication skills, establish new contacts and enabled him to gain new insights into various research fields.

‘ I was fortunate enough to attend the 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh (PA), USA (28 October - 2 November 2018) thanks to the financial support of the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Richardson Travel Bursary. The conference is held annually in a US city and is a prestigious event attracting thousands of academic and industrial experts delivering cutting-edge research in a broad range of fields in the discipline of chemical engineering. I attended the conference to present oral presentations based on my PhD research, which I am pursuing under the supervision of Dr. Dimitrios Gerogiorgis at the University of Edinburgh. Attending the conference was a unique opportunity to develop my presentation and communication skills, attend many technical presentations, to be immersed amongst an international community of technical experts and to receive critical and constructive feedback on my work and further my professional development.

‘ I arrived in Pittsburgh late on Monday 29 October and checked into my hotel, having spent the journey from Edinburgh making final preparations and rehearsing my oral presentations to be delivered later that week. On the morning of Tuesday 30 October, I arrived at the conference centre at 7.30am to register my attendance and receive my welcome pack, which included the conference session programme. Having already read through the programme prior to my arrival in Pittsburgh to create a timetable of presentations I would attend related to my PhD research, I attended the first session of the day, “Continuous Crystallisation Processes”, composed of a range of excellent presentations of high relevance to my work. Following the morning coffee break, I attended a presentation by my colleague and fellow University of Edinburgh PhD student, Mr. Alistair Rodman, then a session entitled “Continuous Processing Technologies Applied in Drug Substance Manufacturing”, composed of presentations on various topics on up and downstream pharmaceutical processes.

‘I began the following day of the conference (Wednesday 31 October) by attending the session “Modelling and Control of Crystallisation”, composed of presentations on novel crystallisation control strategies and parameter regression for modelling and simulation, a methodology which I have applied in various aspects of my PhD research. I then attended the John M. Prausnitz AIChE Institute Lecture by Prof. Klavs Jensen (MIT), “Accelerating Development and Intensification of Chemical Processes”, which I greatly enjoyed, having followed Prof. Jensen’s research for several years since I was an undergraduate student. I then attended afternoon sessions on pharmaceutical downstream process technologies, featuring topics I am less familiar with but of great relevance to my PhD research. I then returned to my hotel to rehearse my oral presentations to be presented the following day.

‘On Thursday 1 November, I woke up early to go to the conference room where I would present my first oral presentation of the day, “Optimal Design of Separation Systems for Continuous Manufacturing of Nevirapine, an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient for HIV Treatment”, featuring work from a research collaboration with Prof. D. Tyler McQuade from Virginia Commonwealth University, USA. My presentation was followed by discussion with the session chairperson, Dr. Salvador Garcia-Munoz. I also enjoyed the other speakers’ presentations, including industrial representatives (GSK, Pfizer) and academics (UConn, Imperial College). Later, I attended presentations on bioreactor experiments and modelling and pharmaceutical process scale-up and optimisation. I then went to the conference room where I would present my second presentation of the day, “Process Modelling, Simulation and Optimisation of Continuous Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing”, featuring an ongoing collaboration with Ms. Haruku Shirahata and Prof. Hirokazu Sugiyama from the University of Tokyo, Japan. The presentation prompted discussion with the session co-chairperson, Dr. Nima Yazanpanah. I then enjoyed the session’s remaining presentations on biopharmaceutical manufacturing topics.

‘The final day (Friday 2 November) began with an early breakfast, over which I made final preparations for the final presentation I would deliver at the conference. I attended the first session of the day, “Modelling and Computation in Energy and Environment” in which I enjoyed a series of talks on various topics on energy systems, environmental issues and power plant modelling. During the session, I also presented the work of my University of Edinburgh colleague, Mr. Emmanuel Epelle, on “Dynamic Optimisation of Water-Injection Well Operation for Enhanced Oil Recovery from a Mature Oil and Gas Field”, followed by discussions with the session co-chairperson, Dr. Ping He, and Dr. George Kapellos. I then returned to my hotel to check out and travel to the airport for the return journey to Edinburgh.

‘Attending this conference was an excellent experience, providing new insights into various research fields, establishing new contacts with academics and industrial representatives, forming new research ideas, receiving critical feedback from fruitful discussions and affirming the vibrancy of chemical engineering as a professional discipline, furthering my professional development as a doctoral researcher. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the SCI for awarding me a Richardson Travel Bursary, without which I would not have had this enriching experience.’

Samir Diab
PhD Student
University of Edinburgh

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