Students and their alumni sponsors share the benefits when they collaborate on senior design projects

May 23, 2016


Lu Jin ’16 demonstrates the new rotary vacuum drum filtration system her team designed and built for ORAFOL as a senior design project. The project was sponsored by Eric Janosko ’08.

Students benefit when they can interact on projects with alumni who practice chemical engineering in the “real world.” So do the alumni!

Just ask Eric Janosko ’08, a chemical engineer at ORAFOL Precision Technology Solutions, who has sponsored senior design teams each of the last two school years.

“The projects are extremely valuable in giving the seniors a taste of a true professional project, and I love seeing what they come up with,” said Janosko, who worked with one senior design team during the fall semester of 2014, and two more teams this past school year. “The projects are also mutually beneficial; I am working on implementing or adapting ideas from the students and have probably learned as much from them as they have from me.”

Three other alumni sponsored teams this past school year: John Zabrodsky ’82, managing director of Advanced Manufacturing Technology Inc.; Mark Juba ’80 (MS), COO at Molecular Glasses; and Chris Wolfe ’07 (MS), a project manager at Xerox.

The projects included:

• “Designing an Automated Wastewater Treatment Process for the Extraction of Nickel” and “Rotary Vacuum Drum Filtration System for Wastewater Treatment” (both Janosko);
• “Determining Vapor Pressure through a Gas Saturation Device” (Juba);
• “Electric Dryer Optimization and ICP_MS Analysis of Rare Earth Elements” (Zabrodsky);
• Characterization and Testing of Xerox Polystyrene Toner” (Wolfe)

All are projects that were suggested by – and could directly benefit -- the companies the alumni own or are employed by. For example, one of the teams Janosko worked with “developed an excellent automation system for (ORAFOL’s) wastewater treatment that I am looking into incorporating into our new system.”

Zabrodsky’s team worked on an optimized oven using pressure and temperature sensors in a novel way, so that fruit could be dessicated without damaging it, for example, or river sediment could be dried and analyzed for potentially hazardous materials. “We all learned a lot and the students reduced to practice a continuous pilot scale dryer with a working process control and data acquisition system that was very capable,” Zabrodsky said. “It can be applied to many projects.
“Their deliverables in terms of a working system, report, and findings were very well done!”

The students work in teams of four students, with a faculty member assigned as an advisor to each team. Sponsors typically meet with the students at the start of the semester and perhaps once or twice after that, then correspond weekly or as needed with team members by email or Skype. Most sponsors estimated their time commitment at anywhere from 25 to 40 hours over the course of the whole semester.

“It wasn’t a huge burden, just a few hours a week,” Juba said.

The chemicals his company produces are purified by sublimation. The team Juba sponsored worked on developing a simple laboratory technique “to give us some of the physical properties that could be used to predict how the sublimation process for different materials would scale up,” he said. “Overall the project was probably more difficult than we originally estimated, and part of that was because of the temperatures we were working in. It created some mechanical complexity in designing equipment and getting it to work.”

But he praised the students for being “very persistent. The interaction with the students was excellent. They did a really nice job.“

Working with a senior design team, Zabrodsky said, gave him an opportunity “to see the view of the world the students have, which is vitally important for keeping great perspective as a professional.”

“The best part,” Janosko added, “is being able to give back to the Chemical Engineering Department and University of Rochester, which is so near and dear to my heart.”

(The department encourages its alumni and other chemical engineers interested in proposing and sponsoring a senior design project to contact Associate Professor F. Douglas Kelley at or Rachel Monfredo, Lecturer and Senior Technical Associate at by early summer, so details can be worked out and projects defined before the start of classes on August 31.)