U.Va. Ph.D. Graduate Receives Inaugural International Dissertation Prize

April 12, 2013

Ernie X. Pérez Almodóvar, who graduated from the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2012 with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, has received the inaugural International Adsorption Society Award for Excellence in the Ph.D. Dissertation.

The award – given once in a three-year period – was created to recognize exceptional young scientists or engineers who have performed original doctoral thesis work of outstanding quality, achievement and impact in the area of adsorption, the use of solids for removing substances from either gaseous or liquid solutions.

Almodóvar’s dissertation was titled “Protein Adsorption and Transport Kinetics in Novel Stationary Phases for Protein Chromatography Based on the UNOsphere Architecture.”

He works now for Amgen, a biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and delivers innovative human therapeutics.

“It is an honor to receive an award from my peers in IAS, and I humbly accepted,” he said. “My career is starting at Amgen and both the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Virginia equipped me with the tools to succeed. I feel absolutely prepared to tackle the challenging problems that can arise from the manufacturing of biotechnology products.”

Almodóvar singled out his adviser, Giorgio Carta, the Lawrence R. Quarles Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, for his help. “I had a great opportunity to work with Giorgio Carta at U.Va. to fulfill a dream, and the truth is that the U.Va. community as a whole played a critical role on my achievement,” he said.

Carta said, “Ernie's Ph.D. research has focused on developing the science needed to engineer processes used to produce biopharmaceuticals, such as monoclonal antibodies, which have the potential of treating many types of cancer, autoimmune diseases and serious infections. His research constitutes a real step forward by allowing more efficient and reliable purification of these biological drugs. What is particularly impressive is that it has spanned a broad range of scales, from that of a single chromatographic particle, only about 100 micrometers in size, to that of a process scale chromatographic column, about 1 meter in diameter, used in the actual production of these drugs.”

Cartas praised Almodóvar for his contributions to the U.Va. community, including being a panelist for the Engineering School’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations; serving on the search committee for the executive vice president and provost; being a mentor for  NASA Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology; being on the advisory committee of the Graduate Student diversity office; being a board member of U.Va.’s  Latin Network; and being vice president, then president, of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Board.

“He even managed to survive unscathed a fire that destroyed his house here at U.Va.,” Carta said. “His computer perished in the fire, but he was savvy enough to have all of his research-related files saved on a back-up disk here in the lab.”

The award consists of $1,000, a certificate citing the accomplishments of the recipient, and an allowance to attend the society’s triennial International Conference on the Fundamentals of Adsorption and present the recipient’s research in a plenary session.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications