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Chemistry of Life

Life ultimately translates as a series of complex and interrelated chemical reactions — and modern chemical engineering reflects this fact. The department stands at the forefront of human health technologies, including medical chemical engineering: We are developing techniques for practicing medicine at the molecular level, with the promise of breakthroughs that will enhance longevity and quality of life.

We are engineering virus-like particles as protective mechanisms for the next generation of flu vaccines, as delivery systems for cancer treatments and as the building blocks of tests for detecting tumors. Our faculty and students are developing hydrogels that could be employed as human cornea replacements and as scaffolding for tissue repair and replacement. We are designing flexible organic electronics that could be used to create functional electronic skin or deployed as sensor arrays for disease diagnosis.  
 
Much of our work centers on the refined understanding of cellular processes. We are investigating how motor proteins use chemical energy to generate force and motion within cells, and we are exploring the physics of protein self-assembly. Our researchers are modeling DNA-involved biophysical processes, and are manipulating mammalian cells to explicate the role of gene expression in genome instability, cancer and aging. 
 
We are studying how microorganisms in the gut and the mucosal cells that line the intestines work together to influence health. We are unlocking the mysteries of protein self-assembly, and we are examining the implications of intercellular forces in cell development and disease progression.
 
By deepening our understanding of the fundamental processes of life, we can help improve human health. The department remains committed to both of these missions.

Related People

Zhenan Bao

K. K. Lee Professor in the School of Engineering, Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy and Professor, by courtesy, of Materials Science and Engineering and of Chemistry

Alexander Dunn

Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering

Curtis Frank

W. M. Keck, Sr. Professor in Engineering and Professor, by court, of Materials Science and Engineering

Gerald Fuller

Fletcher Jones II Professor in the School of Engineering

Chaitan Khosla

Director, ChEM-H, Wells H. Rauser and Harold M. Petiprin Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor of Chemistry and, by courtesy, of Biochemistry

Jian Qin

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering

Elizabeth Sattely

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering

Eric Shaqfeh

Lester Levi Carter Professor of Chemical Engineering and Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Andrew Spakowitz

Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and of Materials Science and Engineering and, by courtesy, of Applied Physics

Alfred M. Spormann

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, of Chemical Engineering and, by courtesy, of Biology

James Swartz

James H. Clark Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor of Chemical Engineering and of Bioengineering

Roseanna N. Zia

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and, by courtesy, of Mechanical Engineering