Professors Saad Khan, Orlin Velev and Qingshan Wei Received Career Honors

Dean Louis A. Martin-Vega has announced that Professors Saad Khan and Orlin Velev have been appointed to named professorships. In both cases, the appointments are “promotions” from their previous named positions.

Professor Saad Khan
Professor Saad Khan

Professor Khan was appointed the INVISTA Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. He’s an internationally renowned scholar in the areas of soft solids, gels, colloids and polymeric associative networks.

Professor Khan’s research focuses on the rheology of structured polymeric systems, particularly the relationship between material microstructure, chemistry, and macroscopic properties. His use of rheology combined with other techniques provides powerful ways to understand and describe the macroscopic behavior of structured systems in terms of their underlying chemistry and/or microstructure.

During the span of his career Professor Khan’s research efforts have focused on:

  • Colloidal gels such as silica and nanodiamonds,  that have potential as novel composite polymer electrolytes, coatings and composites;
  • UV cross-linked polymers that are increasingly being considered for a wide range of applications because of their environmentally-benign, solvent-free nature and their rapid (on-line) curing speed;
  • Hydrophobically-modified associative polymers and polymer/surfactant complexes that are of significant interest because of their potential use in many applications (e.g., coatings, flocculants for waste-water treatment); and
  • Enzymatic modification of water-soluble polymers, such as guar galactomannans, that offers a novel and powerful way to develop polymers with tailored architecture and properties. These polymers can be used in application ranging from food additives to oil and gas production (fracking).

More recently his research has expanded to include functional textiles and nanofibers, crop protection and food security particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, aerogels for chemical and oil spill remediation, and soft tribology.

Professor Khan’s awards and honors include the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Extension. The Award is the most prestigious award the College of Engineering bestows upon a faculty member. His other awards include the Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award, the Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professorship Award, and the Alcoa Foundation Distinguished Engineering Research Award. He’s also a member of the NC State Academy of Outstanding Teachers Award.

Professor Orlin Velev
Professor Orlin Velev

Professor Velev was appointed an S. Frank and Doris Culberson Distinguished Professor. In 2011, alumnus Frank (B.S. ’60) and his wife, Doris, pledged $1 million to endow two Culberson professorships.

Professor Velev has established a record of innovative research in the areas of nanostructures with electrical and photonic functionality, biosensors, microfluidics and nanomanufacturing. He’s the first researcher to synthesize “inverse opals”, one of the most widely studied types of photonic materials today, and he pioneered techniques for making novel nanoparticle materials, Janus particles, rod-like particles and responsive foams.

More recently, members of his research group have developed a technique for 3-D printing of flexible and porous silicone rubber structures in a dry or a wet environment, suggesting that it has the potential to be used with live tissue, and they’ve developed a way to assemble and pre-program tiny structures made from microscopic cubes – “microbot origami” – that change their shape when actuated by a magnetic field. The microbots perform a variety of tasks – including capturing and transporting single cells.

Orlin is the 33rd recipient of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Extension. Earlier this year, he received a 2018 Langmuir Lecturer Award from the Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry of the American Chemical Society. The Award seeks to recognize researchers who have demonstrated excellence in science and have made major innovative contributions to colloid science and surface science.

Another of Orlin’s prestigious awards is the Andreas Acrivos Award for Professional Progress in Chemical Engineering from the AIChE. The Award is named in honor of one of the chemical engineering profession’s most influential leaders and one of the great fluid dynamacists of the 20th century. Its recipients are researchers who’ve contributed “outstanding progress in the field of chemical engineering,” and who’ve made,” a significant contribution to the science of chemical engineering.”

His other awards include the Alcoa Foundation Distinguished Engineering Research Award, the Alumni Association Outstanding Research Award, and the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. He also has the distinction of being named a Fellow in two professional societies: the Materials Research Society and the American Chemical Society. Only small percentages of engineers and scientists are selected as Fellows of one technical society.

Technologies based on Professor Velev’s research have formed the basis of two Research Triangle Area startup companies, Xanofi and Benanova.

Professor Qingshan Wei

Professor Wei is an inaugural winner of a Young Innovator Award in NanoBiotech from the journal Nano Research. The award was given to “45 outstanding young investigators under 45 in recognition of their distinguished accomplishments and/or potential to make substantial contribution to their fields.” Nano Research will publish a Special Issue featuring the work of the award winners later this year.

Qingshan’s research is focused on developing cost-effective, next-generation field-deployable molecular imaging, sensing, and diagnostic tools for plants and human. These tools are essential to translate conventional laboratory diagnostic tests from the bench to the point of care for rapid field detection, personal health monitoring, as well as battling infectious diseases in the resource-limited settings.

The ultimate goal is to create novel, miniaturized analytical methods and reader devices with single-molecule sensitivity for applications ranging from global health, precision agriculture, to environmental safety. Towards that end, his group is currently studying two main research schemes: the development of new portable microscopy devices for single-molecule detection; as well as novel lab-on- a-chip systems for rapid sample preparation such as DNA extraction, amplification, and sequence-specific labeling.

The group is also developing nanophotonics-enhanced molecular diagnostic assays capable of ultra-sensitive analysis.

As an aside, alum Dr. Elizabeth Nance (B.S. ‘2006) is also one of the 45 recipients.