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Our Team

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  Principal Investigator  

Dr. Ana Rita C. Morais recently accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in the School of Engineering at the University of Kansas. Dr. Morais received her Ph.D. in Sustainable Chemistry from NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal in 2018. Her doctoral research was focused on the development of sustainable solvent systems based on supercritical and sub-critical fluids for producing fuels and chemicals from biomass. While pursuing her Ph.D., Dr. Morais developed a new ammonia-based technology for upgrading lignocellulosic biomass in Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MSU-MBI) and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC). After completing her Ph.D., Dr. Morais was hired as a post-doctoral research associate to work on the determination of thermodynamic and transport properties of refrigerants with low global warming potential in lubricating oils, in collaboration with Chemours Company. In 2019, Dr. Morais joined National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado, to investigate the performance of a catalytic process for upgrading lignin from varying sources into valuable aromatic platform chemicals. In addition, Dr. Morais worked on a project under the BOTTLE U.S. Department of Energy Consortium aiming to recycle post-consumer plastics using an organocatalyzed process. Dr. Morais’s research interests focus on developing economically viable and energy-efficient technologies for upgrading lignocellulose and mixed plastic wastes and exploring potential synergies between lignocellulosic biomass conversion and plastic recycling.

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Ana Rita C. Morais

FEWLS Principal Investigator

Assistant Professor

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  Senior Researchers  

The Students

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Lakshmiprasad Gurrala

Research Associate

Dr. Lakshmiprasad Gurrala joined FEWLS research group as a Research Associate, in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Kansas. He received a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Sciences from CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (2018) and Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR), Pune, India. His doctoral studies included the development of heterogeneous catalysts for the oxidative conversion of hydrocarbons, and biomass-derived compounds to added value fine chemicals. Dr. Gurrala is highly proficient in a wide range of analytical tools, including those required for catalyst characterization, product determination and quantification. Before moving to KU, he worked as a project scientist for the catalytic transformation of industrial waste to value added chemicals via catalytic transformations at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), India. He was also an Institutional Post-doctoral at the same department with Dr. R. Vinu for three years. He worked on various challenges associated with the circular economy, including 1) the development of heterogeneous catalyst materials for different catalytic transformations of biomass, lignin and waste plastic to value-added products; and 2) pyrolysis techniques to generate bio-oils, and their upgrade to fuel blends, followed by subsequent energy evaluation. In addition to his Ph.D., Dr. Gurrala also holds an M.Sc. degree in Inorganic chemistry (2010) and B.Sc. degree (2008) from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.

  Students  

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Rafi Anowar

Ph.D. Student

Originally from Bangladesh, I have graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Malaysia. I have about three years of industrial experience in the sector of paint synthesis, water and wastewater treatment with specialization on polymer constituents and membrane technologies. My research interests lie in the domain of polymer and bioengineering. At FEWLS, my current research involves enzymatic construction of PET plastics, aiming to develop microenvironments that will allow improved morphological control during the hydrolysis process toward the formation of monomers. 

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Siakpebru Odiri Kingsley

Ph.D. Student

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria. I had worked as Process Quality Engineer for over ten years across the companies Baker Hughes, Exxon Mobil, Technip-Crestech Engineering, and Cakasa. I have worked on various engineering projects, such as fertilizer plant construction, gas pipeline construction, and subsea fabrication. My research interests encompass energy sustainability and catalysis, with a focus on the synthesis of biofuels and biochemicals from renewable resources such as biomass. I am currently working at FEWLS research group in understanding the mechanisms for the synthesis of standard jet fuel grade biofuels from biomass feedstocks. 

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Dacosta Osei

Master's Student

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana in 2020. I worked with Unilever Ghana Limited and Wilmar Africa Limited as an intern and a mandatory one-year work service to the nation respectively and also have a good proficiency in flow through porous media in Petroleum Engineering. I am currently working at FEWLS research group under the supervision of Dr. Ana Morais with my research interest termed “Project Circularity”. Project Circularity encompasses hydrothermal deconstruction of PET. The end-products could be reused to make high-value PET, allowing for development of a circular economy

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Piersen Adamson

Undergraduate Student

Piersen Adamson is a sophomore from Omaha, NE majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in business. He is working with Dr. Ana Morais and Dr. Shiflett on Project Shell, which is developing technology for conversion of biomass into new materials and chemicals. He is a member of the Society for Biomaterials and also the alumni relations chair of my fraternity. In his free time, he enjoys listening to music and working out at the gym.

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Nick Gorschak

Unergraduate Student (REU Participant)

I am a senior chemical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown. I am currently working with Dr. Morais over the summer as an REU participant. The project I am working on is focused on the conversion of biomass into new materials and chemicals. I am the treasurer of the UPJ ChemE and in my spare time I enjoy fishing, skiing, and music.

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Jackson Mayuga

Undergraduate Student

Jackson is a junior studying Chemical Engineering with a pre-medicine emphasis. Jackson is working with Dr. Ana Morais and Dr. Shiflett on Project Shell, which aims to convert waste biomass into reusable materials and chemicals. In his free time, Jackson mentors a local FIRST robotics team, is involved with intramural sports, and enjoys travelling.

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Aria Sheldon

Undergraduate Student

Aria is currently a sophomore studying chemical engineering. She is working with Dr. Ana Morais and Dr. Shiflett on Project Shell, which is focused on conversion of biomass into new materials and chemicals. In her spare time Aria enjoys running, watching movies, and reading. Aria is a member of the KU Running Club and Society of Women Engineers (SWE). 

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Seth Dibble

Undergraduate Student

Seth H. Dibble is currently a senior engineering undergraduate at the University of Kansas. He is pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering with a passion for green energy solutions and the conversion of waste material to economically viable products. In the FEWLS Research group, Seth assists in the conversion of biomass feedstock into useable products such as fuel and edible nutrition. Outside of the lab, Seth enjoys brewing, distilling, 3D printing, organic chemistry, hiking around Clinton Lake, and working part time at 6 Mile Chophouse & Tavern.

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Adam Hassiba

Undergraduate Student

Adam Hassiba is a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering from Olathe, KS. He is working with Dr. Morais on the catalytic conversion of biogenic feedstocks into bio-based drop-in fuels such as jet fuel and diesel. Adam enjoys playing basketball, watching sports, and listening to music.