Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
J. Craig Venter Institute-led Team Awarded 5-year, $10.7 M Grant from U.S. Department of Energy
The Young lab has recently received a new grant from the DOE to study the metabolism of photosynthetic diatoms, a type of unicellular algae and the most common form of phytoplankton found in the ocean. Diatom photosynthesis is estimated to account for between 25% and 40% of the 45-50 billion tons of organic carbon fixed annually in the sea. Due to their relatively high lipid content, diatoms supply significant amounts of essential fats to marine food webs, yet their metabolic pathways have not been rigorously characterized at the systems level. Therefore, the true potential for light-driven metabolism remains poorly understood for a large subset of the global diversity of photosynthetic organisms. The newly funded research is expected to develop technologies that are required to achieve sustainable production of biochemicals from photosynthetic microbes within the next 10 to 15 years.
This project involves a collaboration between investigators at the J. Craig Venter Institute, Colorado State University, UC-San Diego, and Vanderbilt to leverage significant recent advances in diatom genome engineering and metabolic modeling to dramatically improve our ability to understand and redirect metabolism in these eukaryotic microbes. In their prior DOE-funded research, the Young lab has developed a suite of experimental approaches and software packages that enable 13C flux analysis of photosynthetic metabolism in photosynthetic bacteria and plants. However, there have been no prior 13C flux studies of diatom metabolism to date. The lab will build on its prior experience to develop novel experimental approaches and data analysis workflows to enable 13C flux analysis of the model diatom Phaedoctylum tricornutum. The resulting flux maps will be integrated with genome-scale metabolic models (GSMs) to identify metabolic bottlenecks that limit cell growth and/or lipid production, which can be removed through genome engineering.
Vanderbilt ChBE Hires New Faculty
Dr. Marjan Rafat has accepted an offer as Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Vanderbilt. Rafat is currently a post-doctoral scholar in the Imaging Radiobiology Laboratory at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in Engineering Sciences at Harvard University and her S.B. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rafat earned a prestigious K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and further, she has received numerous other honors, including the AACR Women in Cancer Research Scholar Award, the Katherine McCormick Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Women in Molecular Imaging Scholar Award. Rafat’s research focuses on engineering approaches to cancer biology. She will have a secondary appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and will participate actively in the Regenerative Medicine research neighborhood. Rafat will join the Vanderbilt faculty on January 1, 2018.
Dr. Piran Kidambi will become an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Vanderbilt on August 2017. Kidambi is currently a post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of Cambridge, his M.S. in Process Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), and his Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology in India. His research leverages the intersection between i) in-situ metrology, ii) process engineering and iii) material science to enable bottom-up novel materials design and synthesis for energy, novel membranes, electronics, catalysis, metrology and healthcare applications. Kidambi's research in 2-dimensional materials synthesis, device integration and processing for applications has been recognized by several awards and honors, including the Lindemann Trust Fellowship UK, the Elizabeth Mabel Burnett Prize from Cambridge, and 1st Prize in the ABTA Doctoral Thesis Award. Kidambi expects to be an active participant in the Vanderbilt Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
Dr. Carlos Silvera Batista will begin in August of 2017 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Batista is currently a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan. He has also served as a post-doctoral researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Batista earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida and his B.E. in Chemical Engineering from City College of New York. In his research, Batista plans to establish a multi-scale control over the assembly of colloids. He will also investigate the design of materials with high barrier properties for food packaging. Batista expects to engage broadly with the Vanderbilt Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. He has extensive experience in service and outreach and has proposed an innovative set of plans to bolster the engagement of the ChBE Department at Vanderbilt with Latin America.
Lara Jazmin-Metalytics LLC Deal
Vanderbilt University signed a license agreement with Metalytics LLC, a startup company dedicated to commercializing metabolic pathway analytics. Metalytics LLC (formerly known as MetaMap Bioworks LLC) was formed by Lara Jazmin, a recent graduate of the chemical engineering PhD program and Vanderbilt Associate Professor Jamey Young, the principal author of the INCA software.
Wilson receives National Science Foundation CAREER Award
The five-year grant will allow Wilson to develop new synthetic materials for “encoding” immunological messages and tightly regulating their delivery to the organs, cells, and pathways of the immune system.
Wilson Named 'A' Award Recipient
John Wilson, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, recently was named an ‘A’ Award recipient by the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for developing a new class of therapeutic to “retrain” the immune system against neuroblastoma.
Welcome, Dr. Ethan Lippmann!
We are excited to welcome Dr. Ethan Lippmann as our new Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Dr. Lippmann arrives from the University of Wisconsin where he worked as a post-doc in Biomedical Engineering after receiving his Ph.D. there in Chemical Engineering. He earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois. Dr. Lippmann is building a research group in the area of pluripotent stem cells. He will be teaching ChBE 3200-Phase Equilibria and Stage-Based Separations this fall.
Lang Promoted to Professor
Congratulations to Dr. Matthew Lang who was promoted to Professor as of January 1, 2015. Professor Lang is leading a very productive research group that is uncovering the inner-workings of nature’s molecular and cellular machinery through high-impact publications. He is also an excellent teacher and mentor.
Young Promoted to Associate Professor
Congratulations to Dr. Jamey Young who was promoted to Associate Professor as of August 16, 2015. During his time at Vanderbilt, Professor Young has won the prestigious NSF CAREER Award, the DOE Young Investigator Award, and an NIH R01, among others. The central theme of his research is the application of engineering, biochemistry, and molecular biology to quantitatively analyze and redirect cellular metabolism.
Guelcher Named Chancellor’s Fellow
Professor Scott Guelcher was among fifteen Vanderbilt professors who were named as inaugural Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Faculty Fellows on February 12, 2015.
Professor Guelcher will hold this title for two years and be supported by an unrestricted allocation to support innovative research, scholarship and creative expression activities. Congratulations, Professor Guelcher!
Nikki Reinemann—NSF Graduate Fellowship Winner
Congratulations to Ph.D. student Nikki Reinemann who won a 2015 NSF Graduate Fellowship. Nikki is finishing her second year of Ph.D. studies in the group of Professor Matt Lang and is investigating single-molecule studies toward the mitotic spindle assembly. Nikki is one of four current Vanderbilt Ph.D. students in chemical engineering who have won a NSF Graduate Fellowship in recent years, including Ali McAtee (Young), Will Erwin (Bardhan), and Joseph Weinstein-Webb (Bardhan).