Quarterly news from Princeton's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
In my short time as Chair of Princeton's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, I've come to see up close the high quality of people and variety of interests that together make up this scholarly community. What follows is a way to turn those facets in the light, as it were, for a glimpse of this department as I see it — a team of dedicated researchers and educators who find joy in the daily practice of their work.
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But if you're like me — excited by all that's happening in and around this department, enthralled by the talent rising up through our ranks, and eager to engage the flights of imagination brought to form by our faculty, students and staff — then it is my privilege to welcome you to the Princeton CBE family. I hope you enjoy the read.

Thanos Panagiotopoulos, Chair
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Reshaping solar power

The common image of solar power involves big, blocky panels bolted to a roof. But in the lab of Lynn Loo, photovoltaics are freed from this cubist form. Some are crinkled, bent, or even used as transparent laminates on windows.

Turning yeast into optogenetic machines
An interdisciplinary research team co-led by José Avalos and Jared Toettcher have invented a tool that affords scientists unprecedented control over the metabolism of cells. According to a 21 March article published in the journal Nature, the team used "new optogenetic circuits to shift cells from a light-induced growth phase to a darkness-induced production phase." Their control of fermentation in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae increased yields using only periodic light pulses, as simulated in the animation above. Watch the Princeton-produced video about the research, or read the full article in Nature.
Further discovery . . .

C. Nelson, H. Stone, et al, find control in microfluidic chest cavities (Development | Company of Biologists)

P.T. Brun finds how nectar-drinking bats drink up (Physical Review Fluids | APS)

L. Loo, R. Register, C. Arnold and R. Priestley, et al, use MAPLE to tune polymer-film metrics (Macromolecules | ACS)

D. Christie, R. Register and R. Priestley find a direct measurement of Tg in block co-polymers (ACS Central Science | ACS)

Putting the bio in bioengineering

Celeste Nelson finds beauty in all living organisms.

Inspired by an organism’s unique forms, she is drawn to the compelling images produced during the course of her research on tissue and organ development.

“My group is focused on trying to understand how populations of cells build the beautiful structures we see in our bodies and destroy those during disease,” said Nelson. She is the principal investigator in the Tissue Morphodynamics Laboratory and her work has implications for illnesses such as asthma and cancer.

The profile video shown above, produced by Princeton's Office of Communications, features Nelson's research as well as the human side of her life and work.


A brief history of phase separation

For more than a century, biologists ignored a fundamental question about how cells do the business of sorting molecules in a crowd. Then came Cliff Brangwynne, whose surprising work showed that certain proteins separate into globules much like droplets of vinegar suspended in oil. The finding, which revived previously dismissed ideas about biophysical mechanics, launched a new paradigm in cell biology: liquid-liquid phase separation.

Brangwynne has since become associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Princeton, opened his lab, dubbed the Soft Living Matter Group, and greatly expanded the scope of his original discovery. With the development of new tools and a recent surge in biomedical and pharmaceutical translations, the frontier looks to be expanding rapidly.

A 14 March news feature in the journal Nature outlines the history, impact and current outlook of Brangwynne’s work.

Prud'homme backed by Gates Foundation

By the time Robert Prud’homme visited the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle two years ago, his technology for encasing medicine in ultra-small particles had already led to new drug delivery approaches for high-value medical applications, including oncology. But the Gates Foundation needed more — a method that was cheap, stable and easy to administer in conditions across the developing world. Prud’homme, who has been developing the technology for the last 15 years, said the tasks were difficult but doable.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

In April, seven current and former CBE students were awarded prestigious fellowships from the National Science Foundation. The oldest of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of recognizing future thought leaders and supporting advances in science and engineering.

Local News . . .

Two CBE graduate students received Honorific Fellowships from the Graduate School. Victoria Lee was honored with the Procter Fellowship, and Wai Ling Cheung was honored with the Dodds Fellowship.

At the 2018 Innovation Forum, the research group co-led by José Avalos and Jared Toettcher took second prize, while CBE 2nd-year graduate student Kurt Ristroph took third.

CBE graduate alumnus Dr. George Khoury won company-wide honors at ExxonMobil as the 2018 "Analytics Influencer of the Year."

The Princeton Engineering Council honored five faculty, researchers and graduate students from CBE with "Excellence in Teaching" awards.


Xavier Trepat
Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia

Physical Forces Driving Migration, Division and Folding in Epithelial Sheets

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Wednesday, April 25

James Petersson
University of Pennsylvania

Engineering protein structures through a combination genetic code expansion and semi-synthesis

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Friday, April 27

Michelle O'Malley
University of California, Santa Barbara

Exploiting Anaerobes for Biomass Breakdown and Sustainable Chemistry

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Wednesday, May 2

Rohit Pappu
University of Washington in St. Louis

Evolved to be just right: A Goldilocks precept for intrinsically disordered proteins uncovered from physical principles

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Friday, May 4
Maeder Hall Auditorium

Gustavo Stolovitsky

Smaller, Faster and Chip-er: Separation of exosomes and biomarkers by nanoDLD lab-on-a-chip technology

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Friday, May 11

Ice Cream Social

Open to all alumni, faculty and staff, families included.

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Friday, June 1
2:00 - 4:00pm
CBE Undergrad Lounge

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Princeton University

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