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Faculty Research - Foci Descriptions

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Research Opportunities

There are vast opportunities for a wide range of research activities, which can be further broadened by interdisciplinary collaboration. More than 40 Research Centers and laboratories provide students with access to state-of-the-art facilities for research and teaching.


Using both applied and theoretical/simulation methods of investigation, CBE's research foci can be broadly categorized into three overlapping areas:

Icon of Advanced Materials
(3) advanced materials
Icon of Biomolecular and Biomedical Engineering
(1) biomolecular and biomedical: cancer and nano-bioscience and technology;
Energy and Sustainability Foci
(2) energy, sustainable engineering and the environment;



Faculty Research Areas



Bioengineering & Biotechnology are broad terms that involve the application of engineering principles to biological processes. Research in CBE covers a broad range of relevant topics including cell and tissue culture (Chalmers, Winter, Wood, Yang), separations (Chalmers, Ho, Reátegui, Winter, Wood), drug delivery (Palmer, Swindle-Reilly, Winter, Wood), imaging (Reátegui, Winter), and the development of medical diagnostics and therapies (Lee, Palmer, Reátegui, Winter, Wood), as well as biomaterials (Cooper, Palmer, Swindle-Reilly, Winter).

Colloids/Aerosols/Particle Technology

Understanding the behavior of colloids, aerosols, and small particles is important in both natural and industrial settings. Research in CBE includes fundamental studies of particle nucleation from the vapor phase (Kusaka, Wyslouzil), the growth, structure and freezing of nanodroplets (Wang, Wyslouzil), self-assembly of block-co-polymer micelles in the liquid phase (Hall, Wang, Winter, Wyslouzil), and the development of reactors based on fluidization of small particles (Fan, Tong).

Fluid Mechanics/Multiphase Flow

Fluid mechanics and multiphase flow are fundamental research areas that support the chemical process industry. Currently, focus is largely on the complex multiphase flows (Fan, Tong) that characterize fluidized bed reactors.

Molecular Thermodynamics/Molecular Simulation 

A strong understanding of molecular thermodynamics is critical to our ability to predict the behavior of matter. Furthermore, the ability to simulate the properties of materials accurately can lead to significant insight into the underlying phenomena and, ultimately, the design of novel materials. Research in CBE within this focus area extends from experimental work (Tomasko) to theory/simulation (Asthagiri, Hall, Kusaka, Rathman, Wyslouzil). Research is driven by problems in the fields of catalysis and energy related materials (Asthagiri), polymers (Hall, Tomasko), dynamics of phase transitions (Kusaka, Hall, Wyslouzil), and chemical toxicity (Rathman).


The department has had a long history of research in the area of polymers and nanomaterials. Current focus is largely in the biomaterials and biological arena (Cooper, Lee, Swindle-Reilly, Winter), polymer membranes and nanoporous materials (Ho, Lin), rheology and polymer processing (Koelling), and polymer theory/simulation (Hall). In 2019, two new faculty with expertise in the polymer/nanomaterials joined the department. William Wang’s research explores how imperfect structures in liquid crystalline soft matter can be leveraged to design and synthesize materials with unusual function and structure, whereas Xiaoxue Wang explores novel ways to grow flexible circuits using chemical vapor deposition.

Sustainability/Energy/Environment/Process Engineering

Meeting human needs while addressing and adapting to challenges posed by environmental change, resource depletion, and ecological deterioration is among the grand challenges facing humanity. In addition to directly addressing technological problems related to using or creating energy effectively (Asthagiri, Fan, Ho, Ozkan, Tong), or environmental issues (Ozkan, Wyslouzil), this research focus also considers the broader problems of process engineering and sustainability (Bakshi, Paulson).

Reaction Engineering/Catalysis

Led by senior faculty members Fan, Ho, and Ozkan, reaction engineering and catalysis have long been strong focal points in the department. With the addition of Asthagiri, Brunelli, and Tong, this area has gained depth both experimentally (Brunelli, Tong) and computationally (Asthagiri). Topics of interest are largely focused on energy and environmental problems, and include the development of heterogeneous catalysts and reactors for biomass conversion (Brunelli, Fan, Ozkan, Tong), for waste water treatment (Ozkan, Ho), for fuel cells (Asthagiri, Ozkan, Ho), and for efficient conversion of coal and natural gas (Asthagiri, Ozkan, Brunelli, Fan, Tong).