Skip to main content

News & Events

Acid, ions and industry experience

By Jeremiah Wilhelm
September 25, 2023

2023 Membrion industry capstone team members and their research.

The UW College of Engineering’s Industry Capstone Program brings engineering seniors and industry partners together to assess real-world problems while offering valuable hands-on experience.

Ben Rutz, assistant teaching professor

Ben Rutz, assistant teaching professor

Ben Rutz, John C. Berg endowed assistant teaching professor in interfacial and colloid science, helps students align with industry partners early in the academic year. The collaborative dynamic between the Department of Chemical Engineering and industry connects students with teams from local startups and corporations like Boeing and Talking Rain. The capstone program highlights the expertise cultivated in the engineering laboratories and classrooms throughout the University of Washington.

“A lot of my job is helping students navigate the ambiguity of real-world problem solving," Rutz remarks, "The great thing about these capstones is that they give the students a very important introduction and perspective to the way that problems are posed in the real world. How do you navigate the ambiguity of an industry problem and turn that into system requirements, objectives, budgets and timelines?”

Membrion, an industry sponsor founded by ChemE Ph.D. graduate Greg Newbloom, exemplifies the full-circle benefit of the capstone program. Newbloom founded his company based on the postdoctoral research he did with ChemE professor, Lilo Pozzo. Membrion has participated as an industry capstone sponsor for multiple years since 2016, and Newbloom participated in the 2020 Leadership Seminar Series, which provided students an opportunity to discuss professional and leadership topics with industry luminaries. 

Olivia Lenz, Membrion Research Engineer

Olivia Lenz, Membrion Research Engineer

Membrion is known for treating industrial wastewater through the use of efficient ion exchange membranes to purify and upcycle water that was previously contaminated with heavy metals, salts and industrial biproducts. The 2023 Membrion project team included Owen Lin, Gisele Charpentier, Lindsey Miller, Mansi Gokani and Mason Nelson. These students, with support of Rutz and Membrion Research Engineer Olivia Lenz, compared and characterized silica-based anion resins developed by Membrion and their competition. At its core, this project helped Membrion measure and compare the efficiency of their resin with that of their competitor—offering valuable insight for future product development.    

Newbloom’s environmentally conscious enterprise was, in its own way, fostered in the same laboratories utilized by the capstone students, and highlights the personal and industrial impacts an immersive, interdisciplinary education in chemical engineering can have. 


The industry capstone is foundational to my UW ChemE experience. I was able to apply technical knowledge learned in class to real-world problems, but also develop soft skills that are essential to the workforce like managing the project and collaborating with teammates. Our Membrion mentor gave clear expectations to our project while provided creative freedom and ample resources for our success.

- Owen Lin

The capstone program provides students with a valuable experiential education, applying their accrued scientific acumen to industry-specific inquiries and experiments. Project team members experience the structure and rigor of a full design cycle, delving headlong into techno-economic analysis, chemical production efficiency and environmentally responsible manufacturing processes. In return, sponsors gain new insights and the opportunity to interact with rising chemical engineering talent. 


Do you want to become an industry capstone sponsor?

If you are interested in sponsoring future projects, please connect with us.

Learn more