Assistant Professor Nikhil Nair of the Tufts Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Nikhil Nair, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, received an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award for his research on engineering bacteria to treat inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs). These rare genetic disorders, like Phenylketonuria and Maple Syrup Urine Disorder, are disorders in which the body converts nutrients from food into harmful toxins. If not treated at birth, IEMs can impede intellectual or physical development and may even lead to death.
Nair and members of his synthetic biology laboratory are modifying lactobacillus bacteria that could produce enzymes that intercept and detoxify amino acids before they can be improperly metabolized to harm patients with IEMs.
The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, established in 2007, supports early career investigators within 10 years of their terminal degree or clinical residency and is part of the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program.
Each year, the Summer Scholars Program awards funding to a select group of rising juniors and seniors from across Tufts academic disciplines, to carry out ten-week independent research projects. This summer, we profiled three engineering students as they worked on their projects.
Grace Aro working in the lab at SciTech. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)
Name: Grace Aro Hometown: Denver, CO Major: Chemical engineering, E18 Faculty mentor: Assistant Professor Ayse Asatekin
Project: There are “a lot of people in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water,” says Aro, “and that’s a big issue.” Her project investigates an interesting potential solution: a co-polymer membrane that could filter organic materials out of surface water, while resisting getting clogged. The membranes that she made and tested in the lab are zwitterionic, meaning that they were created with zwitterions — ions that have positive charges on one end and negative on the other. So far, Aro’s research suggests that the zwitterionic membranes seem to have equal the filtering capabilities of commercially-sold membranes, while clogging less. She’s also experimenting with whether the membranes can remove lead from a solution.
The Tufts Summer Scholars program has announced the 2016 Summer Scholars. Each year, the program awards funding to a select group of rising juniors and seniors from across Tufts academic disciplines, to carry out ten-week independent research projects. The program is administered by the Office of Undergraduate Education.
Congratulations to all our engineering summer scholars! See below for the full list.
Professor Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos has received the International Precious Metals Institute’s (IPMI) Carol Tyler Award for 2016, in recognition of her contributions to the research of precious metals.
The IPMI Carol Tyler Award recognizes the achievements of a distinguished woman in the field, spanning both industry and academia. The award will be presented at IPMI’s 40th Annual Conference in June 2016.
Encapsulating blood samples in silk protein extracted from silk worm cocoons protected biomarkers effectively, even at high temperatures. (Courtesy Tufts Silk Lab)
A team of Tufts University researchers, including Professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto, have stabilized blood samples without refrigeration, by using air-dried silk protein to encapsulate the samples. The technique has implications for clinical care and research that require analysis of biofluids like blood, and could open up new testing options for currently underserved populations.
The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. In addition to Kaplan and Omenetto, authors include co-first author Jonathan Kluge, Ph.D., former postdoctoral associate in the Kaplan lab; Adrian B. Li, Ph.D., scientist at Vaxess Laboratories and a former doctoral student in Tufts’ Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Brooke Kahn, B.S., research associate at Cocoon Biotech and former intern in the Kaplan laboratory; and Dominique S. Michaud, Sc.D., Tufts University School of Medicine.
Jessica Stieglitz, PhD candidate, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Doctoral candidate Jessica Stieglitz and alumnus Brian Rohr, E13, both from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering received the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship award. Honorable mentions included alumni Jesse Zhang, E14 (EE); Raymond Wang, A13 (BME, Biochem); and Dylan Jones, E15 (ME).
Assistant Professor Ayse Asatekin, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Assistant Professor Ayse Astaekin received a Young Scholar Award from the Turkish American Scientists and Scholars Association (TASSA). She will present a lecture and receive the award at the annual TASSA conference held April 2-3, 2016 at the University of Chicago.
Howard Saltsburg, research professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, passed away on February 11, 2016.
Howard was a long-time member of the ChBE Department, working as a Research Professor since 1998, and serving as Acting Chair from 2001-2002.
Howard received his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Boston University in 1955. After working as a scientist in both private industry and national laboratories, he served as a professor of chemical engineering at University of Rochester for more than 20 years.
While at Tufts, he collaborated with Professor Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos and helped advise more than 10 doctoral students.
He is survived by his wife Iris, and his children Debbie and Daniel.
Ayse Asatekin, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Assistant Professor Ayse Asatekin received an NSF CAREER Award for her proposal to engineer novel membranes with new capabilities by designing polymers that self-assemble to form nanostructures. Membrane filtration is energy efficient, simple, scalable, and a key technology for generating clean, safe water and for preventing water pollution. Asatekin’s research focuses on controlling the pore size of a novel family of membranes with high flux, exceptional fouling resistance, and sharp size-based selectivity, prepared by coating zwitterion-containing amphiphilic copolymers on porous supports.
The L.K. Doraiswamy Honor Lectureship in Chemical Engineering selects one internationally recognized scientist or engineer each year to present lectures at Iowa State University and at the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India, the home of Doraiswami. The late Dr. Doraiswami was a faculty member of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Iowa State from 1989 to 2011 and was an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering.
Flytzani-Stephanopoulos presented “Heterogeneous Catalyst Design at the Single Atom Limit: A Diverse Reaction Landscape.” Her pioneering research work focuses on understanding metal-metal and metal-oxide interactions at the atomic scale to guide processes for hydrogen and chemical production, and to maximize yields of desired products while using only trace amounts of expensive metals.