Beyond Borders: One chemical engineer’s journey from the sugar cane factories of Sudan to an award-winning lab in Qatar



It was there that Elbashir learned about the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering from one of his supervisors, Ahmed Abasaeed, an ’87 doctoral graduate in chemical engineering, who spoke favorably about the Plains and about research being conducted in catalysis and reaction engineering.

“I consider it the best advice I received in my life,” says Elbashir.

He took to heart his colleague’s advice, entering Auburn Engineering’s doctoral program in August 2001. He selected Roberts — then a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering — as his adviser based on mutual interests in gas-to-liquid technology reactors and synthetic fuels processing. Roberts had experience with these processes in the development of new fuels and energy technologies.

As a graduate research assistant, Elbashir was interested in using light hydrocarbons as supercritical fluids media in Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, a reaction that converts a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons. In addition to his coursework and research, Elbashir taught principles of chemical engineering, a course that explores the application of multicomponent material and energy balances to chemical processes involving phase changes and chemical reactions.

In 2002, he was awarded a graduate research fellowship, a recognition for superior work that he held through 2004. In addition, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, or AIChE, and the Gordon Research Conference recognized the quality of his research work. It was a reflection not only of his superb work ethic, but also his ability to think outside the box and develop new processes in the lab.

“He was fearless with equipment,” says Roberts. “With his background in industry, he had seen how innovation worked — how projects could evolve — and he took on impactful work beyond the norm. He was the sort of serious-minded graduate student who set aside typical, rudimentary catalysis in order to address current challenges facing industry.”

Upon completion of his doctoral work, Elbashir served as a postdoctoral fellow at Auburn from December 2004 to July 2005, supervising the high-pressure reactor laboratory and co-supervising a research team in the fields of gas-to-liquid technology, green chemistry processes and hydrogen storage in liquid fuel carriers.

While Elbashir and Roberts knew each other first as mentor and student, they later became colleagues, writing award-winning research proposals and a number of articles and papers for peer-reviewed publications, such as the Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research and the AIChE Journal, published by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

[miniflickr photoset_id=72157633504616362&sortby=date-posted-asc&per_page=50]

Comments are closed.