Current Research Projects

Our current research activities are concentrated in the domains of microbial biofuels, structured chemical products and biological timekeeping.

Microbial Technologies for Biofuels Production

One of the most promising routes to renewable fuels is the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass by microbial organisms. Despite extensive research efforts, the development of commercially viable consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) technology remains an elusive goal. We are addressing this challenge through the development of single microbe and microbial community technologies aimed at overcoming current obstacles to renewable fuels production. Current research projects organized through The Institute for Massachusetts Biofuels Research (TIMBR) include:

  1. Model-based development of synthetic yeast communities for efficient sugar uptake and medium detoxification. Link
  2. Fermentation of synthesis gas consuming bacteria for conversion of processed municipal solid waste to alcohol fuels. Link
  3. Solid-state fermentation with biomass degrading fungi to produce jet fuel precursors from lignocellulose. Link
Emulsion and Nanoparticle Processing

Emulsions and nanoparticles are two important classes of colloids that have a very wide range of applications that span the petroleum, chemical, agricultural, pharmaceutical, foods and consumer/household products industries. A critical property of any colloidal dispersion is the particle size distribution, which affects dispersion rheology, stability, texture and appearance. We are developing dynamic models for predicting particle size distributions and their effects to facilitate more rapid development and optimization of emulsion and nanoparticle processing technologies. Current research projects organized through the Center for Process Design and Control (PDCC) and the Process Systems Engineering Consortium (PSEC) include:

  1. Population balance equation modeling of high pressure homogenizers and colloid mills to predict the drop size distribution and viscosity of oil-in-water emulsions. Link
  2. Model-based development of solid lipid nanoparticle dispersions that remain stable at room temperature and effectively encapsulate and deliver lipophilic compounds. Link
  3. Transport modeling of pharmaceutical drying and filtration processes to predict the effect of the crystal size distribution on process performance. Link
Circadian Rhythm Generation and Synchronization

In mammals, many physiological and behavioral events are subject to well controlled daily oscillations. These rhythms are generated by an internal self-sustained oscillator located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and consisting of approximately 20,000 heterogeneous neurons. We are developing multicellular models based on multiscale descriptions of individual neurons to better understand neurotransmitter mediated intracellular communication within the SCN. Our current research is focused on developing multicellular models that predict and rationalize the differential roles the neurotransmitters vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in synchronizing the rhythms of individual neurons and entraining neurons to light-dark cycles. Link

Completed Research Projects

Process Modeling, Control and Optimization
Biochemical and Biomedical System Modeling