New chemical engineering professor quickly finds his place at BYU

Most people graduate high school and go right into college, not always knowing exactly what they want to do. That was not the case for one of the newest chemical engineering professors, Andrew Fry. Fry, who now has a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Utah, spent six or seven years working in power plants and industrial construction before he decided to go to college.

Originally from Salt Lake and Price, Utah, Fry attended the University of Utah for his undergraduate and PhD. From there he went to work for Reaction Engineering International for seven years, working to get government research programs and grants to develop new clean coal engineering. He also helped power plants by going in to investigate, collect data, and model the plant’s system with mathematical models to help find solutions to the plant’s problems.

After working there, he became the director of the Industrial Combustion and Gasification Research Facility at the University of Utah, which he did for three years. There he managed the facility allowing students to fabricate and maintain equipment, and operate equipment for research purposes.

He then decided that if he wanted to be in academics, he wanted it all, which included a tenured track position, so he applied to both BYU and the U of U. He got offers from both, but chose BYU in the end.

“Sometimes it’s good to get out from under the nest and do something new and it was time for a change,” he said of leaving the U for BYU. “It was a good opportunity for a change and I don’t regret the decision at all. It’s been fantastic.”

Fry’s research has revolved around combustion. His dissertation dealt with understanding the transformation of mercury in combustion systems to figure out how to remove it from the combustion system so it’s not being emitted into the atmosphere. Now his research is more about looking at zero-emission coal fire technologies and combustion of biomass with coal.

“My main priority is to look at advanced technology for coal combustion that eventually will lead to zero emission,” Fry said.

Since starting at BYU in August, Fry has taught Unit Operations Laboratory and Thermodynamics. He also had three graduate students and 10 undergraduate students working on research with him. In fact, four of his students helped write a report on coal that was issued by the Governor’s Office of Energy Development in Utah this year.

Fry said things have started moving quickly for him here. When he had the choice between staying at the U of U or coming to BYU, he was hesitant to make the change. Leaving meant that he was giving up many research contacts that he had been nurturing for some time. He thought he would have to start over, but it has been much better than he thought.

“Everything has fallen into place,” he said. “A lot of research contracts followed me here and immediately upon coming here, I worked with some professors from mechanical engineering that I knew and we were able to secure another U.S. Department of Energy grant looking at zero-emission coal-fired power plants.”

Fry has also enjoyed getting to teach and share knowledge with his students.

“My advice (to students) is to figure out what you like and what you’re interested in and make a plan and reach your goal,” he said. “Be tenacious about it because [if you are], you’ll do it.”

In his free time, Fry enjoys the outdoors. He loves visiting the San Rafael Swell in Utah, rock climbing, and canyoneering. He also loves biking.

“I live in Mapleton and I ride my bicycle to work every day, except for the days when I have a meeting somewhere else, but about three or four times a week, I ride my bike.”

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