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Research Overview

Chemical engineering education is at the threshold of significant changes, which have been brought about by recent advances in the life sciences, nanotechnology, and the energy challenge. As a result, we have targeted three fundamental research areas for emphasis in the next five years: Advanced Materials, Sustainable Energy, and Biomolecular Engineering.

These research thrusts and the associated faculty are displayed in the schematic diagram below.

Picture of CBE research areas.

Each target area contains several components of research that are critical to the overall research theme. Associated faculty members are listed in red, and departmental adjunct faculty are listed in green. These faculty play vital roles in fulfilling the mission of each cog in the overall scheme.

The Sustainable Energy Education and Research Center plays an important role in our overall research portfolio, and was targeted and funded based upon the department’s strategic plan. In addition, we have initiated significant interactions with joint institutes (UT-ORNL) in the areas of advanced materials, computational sciences, biological sciences, and neutron scattering.

Research Thrusts


Advanced Materials

Specific areas of interest include dynamics of complex fluids, such as polymeric and biological fluids, fiber suspensions, colloidal systems, as well as synthesis of functional nanoparticles and thin films. An exclusive relationship with ORNL has been established, which allows use of a wide array of state-of-the-art equipment.

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Cells under a microscope.

Biomolecular Engineering

Areas of research include protein engineering to manipulate surface displayed proteins for elucidating molecular recognition in the immune response; experimental engineering of photosynthetic systems to biologically produce hydrogen; and experimental and computational analysis of cell biological phenomena.

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Windmills in a open, grassy area.

Sustainable Energy

Current research projects include inorganic and hybrid polymeric/biological photovoltaic materials; polyelectrolyte membrane hydrogen fuel cells; hydrogen generation via water splitting; advanced battery design; metabolic engineering for biofuel production; and catalytic CO2 reduction to fuels.

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Additional Information

» View a list of partners that work with CBE.
» Students seeking research opportunities: Go to our Faculty Page to find a professor that specializes in your research interests. Email the faculty member(s) that you would like to do research for. Attach a resume that includes your current GPA. If you don’t hear back from them within a week, feel free to stop by their office.

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