External Research Awards More Than Triple for MTU Chemical Engineering

Negative-stained (false-colored) transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicts the ultrastructural details of an influenza virus particle, or “virion”. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Using a three-year, $1.5 million R01 grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Michigan Technological University and Johns Hopkins University will create an “Integrated and Continuous Manufacturing of an Influenza Vaccine.” Michigan Tech Chemical Engineering Professor Caryn Heldt is PI on the project.

Professor Caryn Heldt

Current influenza vaccines are matched to strains circulating in the Southern hemisphere about 8 months prior to the North American flu season. “The approach we plan to take will allow the vaccine to better match the circulating strains in the US and be adaptable to change quickly, as needed,” Heldt explains. “The vaccine will also be safer, as it will not be made in eggs and could be taken by people with egg allergies.”

Professor David Shonnard

Heldt is a co-PI on another $ 1.4 million collaborative project with the University of Massachusetts and Clemson University, funded by NSF:DMREF, the National Science Foundation: Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future. The project, “A Computationally-driven Predictive Framework for Stabilizing Viral Therapies,” will provide insight into how to stabilize vaccines and reduce the need to store and transport vaccines at cold temperatures. Heldt is the James and Lorna Mack Endowed Chair of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering at Michigan Tech.

Chemical Engineering Professor David Shonnard was recently awarded funding in the amount of $917,000 by the US Department of Energy’s Reducing EMbodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Manufacturing Institute. Shonnard is the Robbins Chair in Sustainable Use of Materials at Michigan Tech. The project, “Dynamic Systems Analysis of PET and Olefin Polymers in a Circular Economy” provides funding through the Sustainable Manufacturing Innovation Alliance.

“The total funding amount is cost-shared between REMADE and Michigan Tech, along with partners Idaho National Laboratory, Yale University, Chemstations Inc., and Resource Recycling Systems,” Shonnard explains. The project is expected to result in multiple positive impacts, including:

  • New process models and datasets for systems analysis of a circular economy for plastics
  • Optimized plastics circular economy designs to minimize emissions and costs
  • Case study applications to plastics circular economy designs for the state of Michigan
Dr. Pradeep Agrawal

“Along with my Michigan Tech colleagues, Robert Handler, Utkarsh Chaudhari, and David Watkins, and our external partners, we are excited to receive this award from REMADE,” adds Shonnard.

Janet Callahan, Dean, College of Engineering at Michigan Tech

“Michigan Tech’s Chemical engineering program has external funding through a number of federal agencies, including DARPA, ARPA-E, DOE, NSF, NIH/FDA, EPA, and NASA,” says Pradeep Agrawal, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. “Our research facilities, including equipment and support staff, are on par with top-tier research universities across the country. Michigan Tech provides the flexibility needed to engage in collaborative research both internally as well as externally,” notes Agrawal. “A combination of individual PI grants and multi-PI grants has put the chemical engineering program on a strong research trajectory.”

“The Chemical Engineering department has more than tripled their external research awards over the past four years, and is actively hiring faculty at all levels,” says Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech. “We are building a culturally-diverse faculty committed to teaching and scholarship in a multicultural and inclusive environment, and we seek faculty members and academic leadership who share these values.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.