Research projects in biochemical engineering emphasize biocatalysis, bioseparations, metabolic engineering, and synthetic biology. Fundamental and applied aspects of enzyme technology, mammalian cell culture, membrane sorption and separation, displacement chromatography, and salt-induced precipitation are important areas of focus. New designs involving aqueous and nonaqueous enzyme technology are being developed, as are new types of membrane-entrapped-enzyme and animalcell- suspension reactors, which are being built, tested, and analyzed. Metabolic engineering processes are being used to develop high-rate bacterial fermentations and overproducing hybridoma cultures for producing chemical intermediates, flavors and fragrances, and monoclonal antibodies, respectively. Control theory of biological processes and control strategies for diabetes management are also being pursued. Projects in biomedical engineering involve the design of polymeric inhibitors of bacterial toxins and viruses, and the use of microfabrication tools to modulate the interaction of mammalian cells with their environment for applications in tissue engineering.
A major research focus of the department is in the area of separations – bioseparations in particular. Research projects in these areas employ fundamental concepts for solving applied problems in the biological and environmental fields. Current projects emphasize interactions of proteins with synthetic membranes and chromatographic media, high throughput screening, combinatorial and computational chemistry, gas separations, modification of polymeric surfaces for bioseparations and environmental applications, and the recovery of proteins from complex biological solutions using fusion affinity adsorption, pressure-driven membrane processes, displacement chromatography, and precipitations processes. Other projects focus on the design and synthesis of high-performance artificial membranes inspired by biological membranes, for environmental processes and chemical production.