Chemical engineering professor receives professional leadership scholarship


By Tessa M. Pick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Amir Sheikhi, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Penn State, was recently awarded the John C. Chen Young Professional Leadership Scholarship from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) — also known as the Global Home of Chemical Engineers.

This award was created in memory of John C. Chen, the Carl R. Anderson Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at Lehigh University and AIChE’s president in 2006. The AIChE Foundation created this endowment fund to support young professional chemical engineers in their leadership development.

“I am particularly excited about being part of John’s legacy and acquiring advanced leadership skills to further my academic career and become a better mentor,” Sheikhi said.

As one of the three recipients for this year’s John C. Chen Young Professional Leadership Scholarship, Sheikhi will participate in the PEAK Leadership Training Program, attend the AIChE Annual Meeting and have access to one-on-one career counseling resources.

The PEAK Leadership Training Program — also known as Providing Effective and Knowledgeable Leadership Program — is focused on the developing leadership best practices. Sheikhi will participate in a virtual workshop that addresses four main themes: developing personal capabilities, working with others, focusing on results and setting a clear direction.

Sheikhi has been involved with AIChE for several years. He delivered numerous scientific presentations at the AIChE Annual Meetings and is connected with many AIChE divisions — including Materials Engineering & Sciences Division (MESD), Forest Bioproducts Division (FBP) and Environmental Division. He was selected as a session chair for MESD and FBP.

According to Sheikhi, he plans to use this scholarship to continue his involvement with AIChE and advance his leadership skills to further support his students.

“I decided to become a faculty member to be able to mentor the next generation of ‘thinkers,’” Sheikhi said. “While doing extensive research and leading research teams, I never had official training for leadership, a skill that is vital to academic success. This scholarship, including the PEAK Leadership Training Program, will enable me to strengthen my leadership capabilities and be a better ‘mentor’ for young scientists.”

Sheikhi is currently working on creating a K-12 outreach program that will provide elementary and secondary students with hands-on experiences in health care- and environment-related topics. The program will demonstrate experiments with soft materials, such as hydrogels for tissue engineering and regeneration. Development of this program has been delayed due to COVID-19, but Sheikhi hopes to continue to evolve the program in the coming months.


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Megan Lakatos

headshot of a a man wearing business attire

Amir Sheikhi, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Penn State. IMAGE: PENN STATE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING