Fall 2018

Departmental Seminars


August 27, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Anushree Chatterjee
University of Colorado Boulder

The rapid rise of multidrug-resistant (MDR) superbugs and the declining antibiotic pipeline are serious challenges to global health. Rational design of antibiotics can accelerate development of effective therapies against MDR bacteria. In this talk, I will describe multi-pronged systems, synthetic biology, and nanobiotechnology based approaches being devised in our lab to rationally engineer therapeutics that can overcome antimicrobial resistance.

Transcriptome studies in our lab have shown that, when exposed to antimicrobials, bacteria enter an “adaptive resistance” state by exploring multiple pathways sampling a dynamic gene regulatory space.  We have developed an approach dubbed “Controlled Hindrance of Adaptation of OrganismS” or “CHAOS” to slow the evolution of antibiotic resistance by interfering with processes involved in adaptive resistance. Using CRISPR based technology, we rationally engineer library of synthetic genetic devices for multiplexed activation and inhibition of native gene expression of key essential and stress-response gene networks. Here we show that CHAOS approach leads to predominant negative epistasis with severe loss of fitness during adaptation to a range of toxins, including disinfectants and antibiotics, and eventual “slowing” down of bacteria’s ability to adapt.

To translate our findings into the clinical setting, we engineer antisense therapeutics that can block translation of any desired gene in a pathogen-specific manner for targeted inhibition. Using this approach we are building a Facile Accelerated Specific Therapeutic (FAST) platform for the accelerated development of novel antibiotics against MDR bacterial clinical isolates as well as any emergent bacterial threats. Finally, I will also present development of a unique semiconductor material based quantum dot-antibiotic (QD ABx) which, when activated by stimuli, release reactive oxygen species to eliminate a broad range of MDR bacterial clinical isolates including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, extended-spectrum β-lactamase producing Klebsiella pneumoniae and Salmonella typhimurium, and carbapenem-resistant Escherichia coli. The CHAOS, FAST and QD Abx platforms presented in this talk offer novel approaches for impeding evolution of antibiotic resistance, developing new antibiotics, as well as re-sensitizing antibiotic-resistant pathogens to traditional therapies employed at the clinical setting.

September 10, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Yun Hang Hu
Michigan Technological University

The electrochemical photolysis of water on TiO2 electrodes was discovered in 1972, which created a new era in heterogeneous photocatalysis. However, it is still a challenge to use visible light for photocatalytic processes. In this seminar talk, Prof. Hu will highlight the efforts and findings in his group, with emphasis on (1) why the absorbed visible light by a photocatalyst makes negligible contribution to a photocatalytic process and (2) how to solve such an issue. Furthermore, two efficient visible light photocatalytic processes will be discussed: (1) hydrogen production from water and (2) CO2 reforming of methane.

September 24, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Roger Bonnecaze
University of Texas at Austin

Suspensions of soft particles, such as microgels, micelles and emulsions, form so-called soft particle glasses (SPGs) at high concentration. These suspensions have wide application including coatings, 3D printing, and personal care products, often for their rheological properties which range from solid- to liquid-like. At high concentrations the particles are jammed together and their structure and interesting rheological properties are predominantly due to elastic interactions.

Because of these elastic interactions, the particles in flow exhibit unique dynamics that a very different from hard sphere glasses. The origin of this behavior is explained. It is also shown that from a few measurements of the particle dynamics, the entire shear rheology of the SPG may be determined, providing a powerful microrheology tool.

Further, the elastic interactions, thermodynamic state functions like energy and entropy are shown to be useful to describe and correlate the rheological properties of these SPGs. Ultimately, these state functions are shown to be determined by the microstructure and the dynamics of the SPGs connecting the particle scale interactions to the macroscopic properties. Remarkably for a dissipative system, the rheology is shown to be derivable from an energy function, analogous to the extraction of stress from the strain-energy function in elasticity theory. This provides an alternative perspective and methodology to model and describe these materials.

October 1, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Robert Shepherd
Cornell University

This talk will present multidisciplinary work from material composites and robotics. We have created new types of actuators, sensors, displays, and additive manufacturing techniques for soft robots and haptic interfaces. For example, we now use stretchable optical waveguides as sensors for high accuracy, repeatability, and material compatibility with soft actuators. For displaying information, we have created stretchable, elastomeric light emitting displays as well as texture morphing skins for soft robots. We have created a new type of soft actuator based on molding of foams, new chemical routes for stereolithography printing of silicone and hydrogel elastomer based soft robots, and implemented deep learning in stretchable membranes for interpreting touch. All of these technologies depend on the iterative and complex feedback between material and mechanical design.  I will describe this process, what is the present state of the art, and future opportunities for science in the space of additive manufacturing of elastomeric robots.

October 8, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Tony Jun Huang
Duke University

The past two decades have witnessed an explosion in lab-on-a-chip research with applications in biology, chemistry, and medicine. The continuous fusion of novel properties of physics into microfluidic environments has enabled the rapid development of this field. Recently, a new lab-on-a-chip frontier has emerged, joining acoustics with microfluidics, termed acoustofluidics.

Here we summarize our recent progress in this exciting field and show the depth and breadth of acoustofluidic tools for biomedical applications through many unique examples, from exosome separation to cell-cell communications to 3D bioprinting, from circulating tumor cell isolation and detection to ultra-high-throughput blood cell separation for therapeutics, from high-precision micro-flow cytometry to portable yet powerful fluid manipulation systems. These acoustofluidic technologies are capable of delivering high-precision, high-throughput, and high-efficiency cell/particle/fluid manipulation in a simple, inexpensive, cell-phone-sized device. More importantly, the acoustic power intensity and frequency used in these acoustofluidic devices are in a similar range as those used in ultrasonic imaging, which has proven to be extremely safe for health monitoring during various stages of pregnancy. As a result, these methods are extremely biocompatible; i.e., cells and other biospecimen can maintain their natural states without any adverse effects from the acoustic manipulation process. With these unique advantages, acoustofluidic technologies meet a crucial need for highly accurate and amenable disease diagnosis (e.g., early cancer detection and monitoring of prenatal health) as well as effective therapy (e.g., transfusion and immunotherapy).

October 15, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Sung Hoon Kang
Johns Hopkins University

In my presentation, I will present our ongoing efforts to make self-adaptable materials and “growing” cardiovascular implant devices inspired by nature.

Nature produces outstanding materials for structural applications such as bones and woods that can adapt to their surrounding environment. This leads to the formation of mechanically efficient structures for optimal biomechanical and energy-efficient performance. However, it has been a challenge for synthetic materials to change and adapt their structures and properties to address the changes of loading conditions. To address the challenge, I will present a bone-inspired material system that triggers mineral synthesis from ionic solutions on organic scaffolds upon mechanical loadings and/or damages so that it can self-adapt to mechanical loadings and regenerate upon damages.

Right ventricle–to–pulmonary artery (RV-PA) conduits are frequently used as a surgical palliative treatment for a variety of congenital heart diseases in infants and children. Due to the growth of the infant or child, these conduits require replacement as they cannot grow, which involves several major open-heart surgery before adulthood. To address this issue, we have investigated self-adaptable RV-PA conduits that “grow” via tailored self-unfolding mechanisms triggered by flow and pressure change associated with growth. Both numerical and experimental data show that our self-adaptable implant devices can match the required shape changes to accommodate the growth of children by increasing the dimensions of the devices by self-unfolding mechanism. We anticipate that our self-adaptable RV-PA conduit can contribute to minimizing required surgeries and associated mortality, trauma, and expenses by accommodating growth.

October 22, 2018
10:30 AM
Duke Energy Hall
James B. Hunt Jr. Library
Undergraduate Student Award 2018

Future Leaders in Chemical Engineering is a one and one-half day, all-expense paid research symposium at NC State University recognizing the top undergraduate researchers in chemical engineering in the United States. Chemical engineering researchers (and those in related fields) who are within two years of graduating are eligible to apply.

Awardees will receive a plaque and present their research at a research symposium held October 22, 2018 on Centennial Campus at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. The symposium will also include information about applying to graduate school and fellowships. Students must be present to be eligible.

November 5, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Paul Kenis
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Microchemical systems have potential for a wide range of applications.  The main part of the presentation will highlight our recent efforts in catalyst, electrode, and electrolyzer design and characterization for the electrochemical conversion of CO2 into value-added chemicals such as CO, ethylene, and ethanol, as an approach to reduce CO2 emissions.  Our efforts, often with collaborators, have led to multiple improved catalysts, electrodes and reactor designs that are helping to pave the path towards commercialization.  The second part will focus on continuous flow synthesis of semiconductor nanoparticles, for display applications.  Precise control over temperature and residence time made possible in multi-zone continuous flow reactor designs provides improved control over the composition, size, and shape of semiconducting nanoparticles, which are key for their optical properties.  Control over reaction operation parameters during the sequential steps of core nucleation and growth and shell growth allows for the synthesis of nanoparticles that exhibiting high photoluminescence and the ability to span the visible spectrum with a set of slightly different particles.

November 12, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Belinda Akpa

Ours is a computational systems physiology group that explores a wide range of complex biological questions.  The central theme running through our research efforts is an epistemological agility that we use to enrich and redirect how hypotheses are formulated and tested at the interfaces between mathematics/computation and various biological fields. To date, our work has touched on the fields of pharmacology, toxicology, plant physiology, forensic anthropology, and developmental biology. Using tools of mechanistic modeling (both qualitative and quantitative), statistical inference, uncertainty quantification, and machine learning, we explore inter-individual variability of dynamic phenotypes and the underlying processes that give rise to them. In this seminar, I will describe two examples of our efforts and the various interdisciplinary perspectives that give them practical and methodological significance.

First, we will look at the dynamic phenomenon of acquired – as opposed to genetically determined – ion channel dysfunction as related to cardiovascular disease.  Data from molecular dynamics simulations were integrated with network theory analyses to reveal the complex, dynamic way multiple sterol molecules simultaneously associate with the potassium channel in both relatively stable and transient binding loci. From this multi-molecular context, we will shift to a much larger length-scale and consider the challenge of predicting stable isotopes in biological tissues as a population characteristic relevant to the field of forensics. Semi-mechanistic modeling has gained significant attention as a tool for connecting dietary intake to the isotope content of hair, which has the potential to allow forensic anthropologists to recover migratory information. In consideration of socioeconomic and sociopolitical factors and the paucity of data on how these factors interplay with water supply dynamics, we implemented a Bayesian inference approach to tease apart locally and non-locally derived consumption patterns. The resulting parameter estimates and their credibility bounds cleanly segregate the isotopic signatures of rural and urban populations and hint at the role of non-local water sources in these regions.

November 19, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Ignacio Grossmann
Carnegie Mellon University

In this talk, we first give a brief historical account of the evolution of the area of Process Systems Engineering. Starting with the pioneering vision of Professor Roger Sargent and the pioneering book by Professor Dale Rudd in the 1960’s, we briefly summarize the major developments and advances that have taken place over the last 50 years in process simulation, process control, optimization, process synthesis and process operations. We highlight in each of these areas the key concepts and contributions that have emerged. Furthermore, will show that many of these developments, which have a strong foundation in fundamentals of chemical engineering, numerical analysis, systems and control theory, mathematical programming, computer science and management science, have had significant impact in industry. Next, we outline some of the future research challenges in Process Systems Engineering. These include energy systems, sustainability, process intensification, smart manufacturing, materials design, and systems biology. Aside from leading to challenging research problems that might benefit from new tools like big-data and machine learning, we argue that progress in future research areas will still rely on research advances in the basics and fundamentals of Process Systems Engineering.

November 26, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Yvonne Chen

The adoptive transfer of T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) has demonstrated clinical efficacy in the treatment of advanced cancers, with anti-CD19 CAR-T cells achieving up to 90% complete remission among patients with relapsed B-cell malignancies. However, challenges such as antigen escape and immunosuppression limit the long-term efficacy of adoptive T-cell therapy. Here, I will discuss the development of next-generation T cells that can target multiple cancer antigens and resist immunosuppression, thereby increasing the robustness of therapeutic T cells against tumor defense mechanisms. Specifically, I will discuss the development of multi-input receptors and T cells that can interrogate intracellular antigens. I will also discuss the engineering of T cells that can effectively convert TGF-beta from a potent immunosuppressive cytokine into a T-cell stimulant. This presentation will highlight the potential of synthetic biology in generating novel mammalian cell systems with multifunctional outputs for therapeutic applications.

November 26, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Goetz Veser
University of Pittsburgh

“Chemical looping” (CL) constitutes an intriguing reaction engineering concept which has emerged in recent years as a leading clean combustion technology (but is in fact steeped in engineering history).  CL relies on the periodic oxidation and reduction of an “oxygen carrier” (commonly a transition metal), typically in a circulating fluidized bed or a periodically operated fixed-bed reactor configuration. This process breaks down the oxidation of a fuel into two, spatially or temporally separated steps: The oxidation of the oxygen carrier with air, and its subsequent reduction via reaction with a fuel.

While current interest in chemical looping is mostly focused on combustion—where CL allows CO2 capture with minimal efficiency penalty—the underlying reaction engineering principle constitutes a flexible platform for fuel processing. Over recent years, my lab has been specifically exploring the application of “chemical looping” to oxidative conversion of methane beyond combustion (including partial oxidation and reforming reactions), yielding a family of highly intensified processes for syngas production, CO2 activation, and the production of ultra-clean H2 streams.  In my presentation, I will give an overview of this development and highlight recent research into the use of bimetallic carriers, where synergistic effects between the constituent metals can yield greatly enhanced reactivity and selectivity while using cheap and environmentally benign metals.

Overall, I will illustrate that chemical looping constitutes a flexible technology platform with broad applicability for more efficient, clean, and safer (“intensified”) catalytic fuel processing.

December 3, 2018
10:30 AM
Room 1011, EB1
Dr. Kwanghun Chung

Holistic measurement of diverse functional, anatomical, and molecular traits that span multiple levels, from molecules to cells to an entire system, remains a major challenge in biology. In this talk, I will introduce a series of technologies including CLARITY, SWITCH, MAP, stochastic electrotransport, and SHIELD that enable integrated multiscale imaging and molecular phenotyping of both animal tissues and human clinical samples. I will discuss how we engineer (1) the physicochemical properties of brain tissues, (2) molecular interactions, and (3) molecular transport all together to achieve integrated brain-wide molecular phenotyping at unprecedented speed and resolution. I will also discuss how these tools can be deployed synergistically to study a broad range of biological questions. We hope that these new technologies will accelerate the pace of discovery in biomedical research.