Highlights from BYU colleges: Scientists develop chemical catalyst, engineering professor earns international award

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College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences

From left, Nick Rollins, Daniel Ess and Steven Maley are in a BYU research team working on developing a new chemical catalyst. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

A BYU chemistry team is combining supercomputers with a 90-year-old theory to make a never-before-seen chemical catalyst. The Ess Research Group, led by professor Daniel Ess, includes BYU undergraduates, graduate students and a postdoctoral scholar working to solve chemical problems. Ess’s group built on the transition state theory of Henry Eyring, father of leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Henry B. Eyring. Their research modeling how certain complex chemical reactions happen and how new catalysts can solve important chemistry problems was recently published in the Chemical Science journal. Their new catalysts can speed up chemical reactions, lower energy barriers, and save time, energy and resources in the chemical industry. 

The combination of students and scholars with different education and experience levels was critical to the group’s success. Engineering student Nick Rollins expressed gratitude for Ess, who gave Rollins the mission of learning about guided artificial intelligence for the project. Ess’s group is the first to use machine intelligence to predict chemical reactions’ selectivity.

“The only reason I have the knowledge and skills I do now was really because he decided to sit an undergrad down and entrust him with this significant part of the project,” Rollins said of Ess. “I learned so much from it.”


Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering

BYU professor Evan Bingham received the International Excellence in Teaching Award from the Associated Schools of Construction. (Evan Bingham)

A BYU engineering professor won a reputable international award from the Associated Schools of Construction (ASC). Construction and facilities management professor Evan Bingham received the ASC Excellence in Teaching Award after previously winning the regional award twice.

ASC is a professional organization promoting and inspiring excellence in teaching and research. Bingham is only the second BYU faculty member to receive the international award after Clifton Farnsworth in 2016 and is the fourth at BYU to earn the regional award. This award was supposed to be presented at the Liverpool Cathedral in the United Kingdom but was instead given virtually due to COVID-19. 

“It is no surprise that this teaching award has a consistent history of being given to a teacher from BYU,” Bingham said. “There is a great camaraderie and mentorship that happens among the construction management faculty here that leads to success in and out of the classroom. I am so grateful for the opportunities to grow as a teacher that have been given to me through my colleagues and through the many helpful initiatives at BYU.”


Marriott School of Business

BYU alumna Allison Oberle has become an operations manager for Henkel Corporation just five years after graduation. (Allison Oberle)

A BYU global supply chain management alumna has become an operations manager for a major company just five years after graduating. Allison Oberle (‘15) learned how to persevere and overcome obstacles from her experiences at the BYU Marriott School of Business.

Oberle was denied acceptance into the Marriott School of Accountancy, determinedly tried again, and was then accepted by BYU Marriott. This experience helped Oberle decide not to let anyone limit her path. Oberle chose global supply chain management over accounting after realizing her aptitude and began involving herself in the campus community. Studying abroad with the BYU Marriott Europe Business program, being the president of the BYU Marriott Global Supply Chain Association, and performing on the BYU folk dance team are just a few of the ways Oberle gained experiences at BYU that now benefit her in the workforce. 

Oberle found a job at Sun Products after graduation, but the company was soon acquired by Henkel Corporation. This difficult merging experience challenged Oberle but also gave her the chance to grow and decide on a career path. She is now an operations manager for Henkel after holding four different positions in just five years.

“BYU Marriott provided me with the necessary skills to help me excel in my career,” Oberle said. “I wouldn’t have been prepared for the acquisition and promotion to manager if not for BYU Marriott and my professors who pushed me to be better.”


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