Professor Ruth Baltus
For Ruth Baltus, being a chemical engineering professor is about two things: managing her own research initiatives that have real-world impact and interacting with students and helping them succeed.
And while Baltus is also chair of the department of chemical & biomolecular engineering, an appointment that takes up a lot of her energies, she still makes time for her twin passions: research and teaching.
Take, for example, two of her current research projects. In the first project, Baltus and her research group, which includes undergraduate and graduate students, have been examining the potential of room temperature ionic liquids for carbon capture technologies in order to clean up the gases produced by coal-fired power plants.
“These ionic liquids do not easily volatilize, which gives them unique advantages over more traditional solvents for many separation and reaction processes,” she explains. “We are examining their potential for removing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from flue gases from coal-fired power plants.”
In a completely different direction, Baltus’ second project is examining the filtration of rod-shaped bacteria for water treatment processes. She is interested in understanding the difference in filtration between rod-shaped bacteria, which are quite common, and spherical bacteria and other particles, which have been extensively studied.
“For the water treatment process, the key is to have pores small enough to retain organisms that can be a health risk to a community. But at the same time, using a membrane with pores any smaller than necessary can be costly because pumping costs increase as pore size decreases,” she says. “We want to figure out what the optimal pore size is when one wants to keep bacteria that are not spherical from entering a water system.”
Finding the right pore size translates into cost effective water treatment processes for cities and communities.
In addition to spending time with students in the lab, Baltus also interacts with students in the classroom teaching courses such as the introductory chemical engineering material balance class , and as the faculty advisor of the Chem-E-Car SPEED team.
“We have a relatively small department, so in general, the faculty members get to know the students quite well. Our department really tries to provide a good support system to help our students succeed.”
That dedication to students has not gone unnoticed. In 2003, Baltus was presented with the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award from the Society of Women Engineers. She was honored again in 2007 and 2008 with the Outstanding Advisor Award and Distinguished Teacher Award, respectively, at Clarkson.
Baltus gives credit to Clarkson for providing the right environment for her to fulfill her two goals. She says, “I joined the faculty at Clarkson because I felt that both teaching and research would be valued, and I was right.”
Chemical Engineering Department Chair Ruth Baltus