NYU Tandon chemical engineering students excel on the national, international stage

Daniel Blanco with huge check

Ph.D. candidate Daniela Blanco (second from left) won the top prize in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) Competition at an event in Macau, China, at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Leadership Conference.

BROOKLYN, New York, Monday, April 15, 2019 – Two graduate students from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering have demonstrated the power of diversity at the school, exemplifying by their recent successes that students from disparate places and diverse backgrounds can find a supportive home for their entrepreneurial spirit right here at Tandon.

Daniela Blanco, a Ph.D. candidate and co-founder of a startup dedicated to greener chemical manufacturing processes, has won the top prize in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) Competition at an event in Macau, China, at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Leadership Conference.

Blanco bested dozens of students in the EO GSEA U.S. Nationals in mid-January and more than 50 of the world’s exceptional student entrepreneurs in the finals on Thursday, April 12, in Macau. Her environmentally friendly breakthrough technology for producing a plastic precursor without the use of petrochemical feedstocks grabbed the attention of judges and put her name on a check for $100,000 from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Sunthetics, which Blanco founded with Tandon alum Myriam Sbeiti (‘18) and the help of NYU Tandon Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Miguel Modestino, offers a way to make one of the most-often used synthetic materials, Nylon, in a clean, sustainable way: Sunthetics uses water, plant waste, and solar power to create a Nylon intermediate that takes 50% less energy and smaller amounts of raw material, while producing less waste and removing 20% of carbon emissions.

“As a fellow Venezuelan and an NYU engineer, I am incredibly proud of Daniela,” said Modestino. “This is a well-deserved recognition for her hard work and talent as a true innovator at the service of society. Her success serves as a testament to the global potential of Tandon’s innovators: born anywhere, made in Brooklyn!”

Another Tandon Ph.D. candidate, Ingrid Paredes, is one of just 70 graduate students from across the nation selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science for the 2018 Solicitation 2 cycle of its elite Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program.

The SCGSR program provides supplemental funds for graduate awardees to conduct part of their thesis research at a host DOE laboratory in collaboration with a DOE scientist. The award period for the proposed research project at DOE laboratories may range from 3 to 12 consecutive months.

Awardees were selected from a diverse pool of university-based graduate applicants. Selection was based on merit peer review by outside scientific experts.

Paredes, who, like Blanco, is razor-focused on engineering green technology to meet global challenges, is working with Professor Ayaskanta Sahu in his Hybrid Nanomaterials Laboratory to develop sustainable nanomaterials for energy applications. Her research could lead to more efficient, cost-effective systems for consumer products like LEDs and solar cells.

As an SCGSR fellow she plans to study nanoscale systems for catalysis — the process of increasing a rate of a chemical reaction by a chemical compound.

“This process is key to almost all commercial chemical processes, from energy processing to food processing — so to develop a sustainable economy, we need sustainable catalysts. Unfortunately, commercial catalysts offer limited performance and require a large, costly heat input to work,” she explained.

“Both Daniela and Ingrid embody a spirit of entrepreneurship that inspires our students and informs our mission,” said Dean Jelena Kovačević.  “They also represent the growing influence of women in engineering, evidence of which can be found right here at NYU Tandon, where over 40 percent of the class of 2020 are women. Finally, when our students — who, like many young people today are devoting themselves to making the world a better place to live — win prestigious awards, grants, and fellowships, the whole world wins. Their work perfectly illustrates the way Tandon is innovating to solve problems of global importance.”

About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, one of the country’s foremost private research universities, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.