School of Engineering
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Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering
BioPlants have an extraordinary capacity to harvest atmospheric CO2 and sunlight for the production of energy-rich biopolymers, clinically used drugs, and other biologically active small molecules. The metabolic pathways that produce these compounds are key to developing sustainable biofuel feedstocks, protecting crops from pathogens, and discovering new natural-product based therapeutics for human disease. These applications motivate us to find new ways to elucidate and engineer plant metabolism. We use a multidisciplinary approach combining chemistry, enzymology, genetics, and metabolomics to tackle problems that include new methods for delignification of lignocellulosic biomass and the engineering of plant antibiotic biosynthesis.
Eric S.G. Shaqfeh
Lester Levi Carter Professor and Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsI have over 25 years experience in theoretical and computational research related to complex fluids following my PhD in 1986. This includes work in suspension mechanics of rigid partlcles (rods), solution mechanics of polymers and most recently suspensions of vesicles, capsules and mixtures of these with rigid particles. My research group is internationally known for pioneering work in all these areas.
Hyongsok Tom Soh
Professor of Radiology (Early Detection), of Electrical Engineering, of Bioengineering and, by courtesy, of Chemical Engineering
BioDr. Soh received his B.S. with a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science with Distinction from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. From 1999 to 2003, Dr. Soh served as the technical manager of MEMS Device Research Group at Bell Laboratories and Agere Systems. He was a faculty member at UCSB before joining Stanford in 2015. His current research interests are in analytical biotechnology, especially in high-throughput screening, directed evolution, and integrated biosensors.
Professor of Chemical Engineering, of Materials Science and Engineering and, by courtesy, of Applied Physics
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsTheory and computation of biological processes and complex materials
Alfred M. Spormann
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and of Chemical Engineering
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsMetabolism of anaerobic microbes in diseases, bioenergy, and bioremediation
James H. Clark Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor of Chemical Engineering and of BioengineeringOn Leave from 10/01/2022 To 06/30/2023
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsProgram Overview
The world we enjoy, including the oxygen we breathe, has been beneficially created by biological systems. Consequently, we believe that innovative biotechnologies can also serve to help correct a natural world that non-natural technologies have pushed out of balance. We must work together to provide a sustainable world system capable of equitably improving the lives of over 10 billion people.
Toward that objective, our program focuses on human health as well as planet health. To address particularly difficult challenges, we seek to synergistically combine: 1) the design and evolution of complex protein-based nanoparticles and enzymatic systems with 2) innovative, uniquely capable cell-free production technologies.
To advance human health we focus on: a) achieving the 120 year-old dream of producing “magic bullets”; smart nanoparticles that deliver therapeutics or genetic therapies only to specific cells in our bodies; b) precisely designing and efficiently producing vaccines that mimic viruses to stimulate safe and protective immune responses; and c) providing a rapid point-of-care liquid biopsy that will count and harvest circulating tumor cells.
To address planet health we are pursuing biotechnologies to: a) inexpensively use atmospheric CO2 to produce commodity biochemicals as the basis for a new carbon negative chemical industry, and b) mitigate the intermittency challenges of photovoltaic and wind produced electricity by producing hydrogen either from biomass sugars or directly from sunlight.
More than 25 years ago, Professor Swartz began his pioneering work to develop cell-free biotechnologies. The new ability to precisely focus biological systems toward efficiently addressing new, “non-natural” objectives has proven tremendously useful as we seek to address the crucial and very difficult challenges listed above. Another critical feature of the program is the courage (or naivete) to approach important objectives that require the development and integration of several necessary-but- not-sufficient technology advances.