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Campus News in Brief

Professors named as AAAS fellows for their research

Justine Cassell, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, and Chien Ho, biological sciences alumni professor, have both been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Cassell received the honor “for her distinguished contributions to the field of computer science, particularly for new computational models of human behavior and resulting technologies, including the Embodied Conversational Agent (ECA),” according to a university press release.

Cassell developed the ECA, a virtual human being capable of interacting with humans, to help children with autism in 2008. Her research has focused on computational systems that can help supplement language skills of disabled individuals through the use of conversation and storytelling. According to a university press release, Ho is being recognized “for pioneering the use of magnetic resonance to unravel allosteric mechanisms of hemoglobin, and to develop a noninvasive method to monitor immune responses in vivo.”

This year’s class of 702 fellows will be recognized during the AAAS Fellows Forum held in February at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston.Twenty-seven Carnegie Mellon faculty members and alumni have been named AAAS Fellows in the past.

Students lead new plan for shale chemicals production

Chemical engineering seniors at Carnegie Mellon are creating blueprints for a plan to transform valuable hydrocarbons from the gas in Marcellus shale deposits into chemicals and polymers.

Chemical engineering professors Ignacio Grossmann and Jeff Siirola will lead teams of four and five students in finding a new source for chemical production. The students will convert hydrocarbons from shale deposits into chemicals, which are used in the manufacturing products such as plastics and dyes. Previously, these products have been created from crude oil.

According to a university press release, the student discovered that the production of aromatics from ethane is not only technically feasible, but also economically very profitable.

Grossmann said in a university press release, “This means that U.S. companies like Bayer Corp in Pittsburgh could have advantaged access to low cost aromatics.”

Siirola said in the same release, “Aside from promoting the rebirth of the traditional petrochemical industry in the U.S. which has been in decline for some time, the various components of gas in shale deposits offer the possibility of producing many chemicals with new alternative pathways and processes.”