College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences

Chemical engineer celebrates three early-career honors in her new lab at Clemson University


A Clemson University associate professor whose work could lead to new ways of making alternative fuels is wrapping up 2022 with three honors that mark her as a rising star in chemical engineering research.

Ana C. Alba-Rubio, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, specializes in designing and synthesizing catalysts, which are materials that speed chemical reactions.

Poster reading "Energy and Fuels. Rising Stars" with five rows of headshots.
Ana C. Alba-Rubio is featured in this issue of Energy & Fuels. Her picture is in the left column, second headshot down.

Some of her more recent work has focused on turning carbon dioxide into alcohol that could be used as fuel. The idea is to create a closed system so that carbon dioxide can be recycled instead of being released into the atmosphere, where it would contribute to climate change.

Alba-Rubio has also studied how biomass can be converted into chemicals and fuels.

Her three most recent honors all came this fall. She was named:

* Early Career Fellow for the class of 2023 by the Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The honor recognizes her innovative contributions within applied chemistry and/or chemical engineering. Alba-Rubio will receive this honor at the ACS Spring 2023 meeting.

* A 2022 Emerging Investigator by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal of Catalysis Science & Technology. Alba-Rubio was nominated by a member of the editorial or advisory board to be featured in this collection, which highlights up-and-coming scientists in the early stages of their independent careers. Her group contributed a paper titled, “Soluble and reusable polymer-based catalysts with Brønsted and Lewis acidity for the one-pot synthesis of hydroxymethylfurfural from glucose.

* A 2022 Energy and Fuels Rising Star by Energy & Fuels, a publication of ACS. This special issue honors early- and mid-career researchers who have made significant contributions in their respective fields of energy research. Alba-Rubio’s research was featured with a review paper titled, “Inverse Oxide/Metal Catalysts for CO2 Hydrogenation to Methanol.”

Alba-Rubio said the honors capped a transitional year, as she tied up loose ends at the University of Toledo, where she previously worked, and got her Earle Hall lab at Clemson up and running.

“We have worked hard for many years, and now things are coming together,” she said of her recent honors. “It gives you a big push to keep going.”

David Bruce, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said Alba-Rubio’s recent honors are well deserved.

“Dr. Alba-Rubio’s peers are recognizing her for high-quality, innovative work early in her career,” he said. “These honors serve as an indicator that her career trajectory is on an upward path, and they are helping spread the word about the impactful chemical engineering research we are conducting at Clemson. I offer her my congratulations.”

Alba-Rubio, who also holds a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, acknowledges the role that her students and collaborators at the University of Toledo played in getting these recognitions, as she joined Clemson in fall 2021.

In her time at Clemson, Alba-Rubio said she has found inspiring the strong commitment that Clemson’s students have fortheir education. She also likes the facilities and resources available to bring her research to the next level.

“I have everything I dreamed of,” Alba-Rubio said. “I love being here. I like the atmosphere, the Clemson community.”

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