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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Chair's message

Professor and Chair Kyongbum LeeSpring 2020

Dear Alumni, Colleagues, and Friends,

I hope that this letter finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe.

These are extraordinary times. I can only imagine how much your life has been impacted by the global pandemic. Our campus is certainly different now than any other spring semester I can remember in my 17 years as a faculty member at Tufts University. All of our classes are held online, dining halls are empty, campus activities have been canceled, and some residence halls now house medical personnel, first responders, and patients. Students aren’t stopping by our offices, and laboratory buildings aren’t teeming with researchers. Campus life has been put on hold. 

However, our community is very much intact. I am proud to tell you that our students, faculty, and staff have continued to engage each other through virtual classrooms, town halls, and meetings. I am humbled by the resilience of our students and dedication of our faculty and staff. Our students are learning and growing as people, and faculty and staff are finding innovative ways to continue their support of the students’ learning and personal growth.

I want to share some of the inspiring stories about members of the Tufts ChBE community.

In February, we held a memorial service on campus to honor the late Professor Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos. As you know, she passed away last fall after a protracted battle with multiple myeloma. As the Robert and Marcy Haber Endowed Professor in Energy Sustainability and a Distinguished Professor, Miretta has had a monumental impact on the department, university, and the chemical engineering profession. She was a brilliant member of the Tufts faculty for 25 years, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A world-renowned expert in the field of catalysis, Miretta won numerous national and international awards. She brought her passion for transformative research and education to everything that she did. The memorial service, attended by members of her family, friends, and colleagues from institutions across the country, paid a heartfelt tribute to Miretta’s greatest legacy – her unwavering love and support of those around her.

In addition to this important legacy, we also celebrated new successes. As of this fall, Ayse Asatekin holds the rank of Associate Professor with tenure. In recognition of her achievements, she was also named a Steve and Kristen Remondi Fellow. Associate Professor Asatekin and Associate Professor Matthew Panzer were both recognized this fall at an event for university inventors. Assistant Professor James Van Deventer received an NIH Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. This prestigious multi-year award supports his innovative research to discover new classes of enzyme inhibitors that could lead to treatments of cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases. Assistant Professor Nikhil Nair published a paper in Nature Communications describing a new technology to produce tagatose, a low-calorie, low-glycemic sugar using bacteria as tiny bioreactors. Professor Christos Georgakis’ career was celebrated by former students and colleagues in a special issue of the journal Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research.

Senior Michelle Gee and alumnus Trevor Donadt (E10) won prestigious national fellowships for graduate study. Our alumni continue to thrive in their careers, rising to leadership positions in academia and industry in the US and abroad. Tufts ChBE is truly having a global impact.  

These are but a few highlights of the department’s many accomplishments, and I invite you to read more about these and other stories on our website and inside our department newsletter. I am happy to tell you that the department continues to reach new heights. Our total research expenditure for the most recent fiscal year again set a new record. Similarly, our national visibility as determined by a survey of peer institutions also continued its climb, reflecting the dynamism of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

As you can see, the department has much to celebrate. I am very grateful for the dedication of our faculty members, students, and staff as well as generous support from our alumni and friends. Thanks to their efforts, the department thrives as a vibrant community of learning and scholarship, even in these unprecedented times. Later this spring, we will hold a virtual commencement week event, which will feature participation by the students’ families and friends. While we obviously cannot replicate our traditional senior brunch, the faculty and staff want to make sure to let our graduating students and their loved ones know how much this experience means to us.

In closing, I ask that you continue to support each other. Some members of our community have been personally affected by the viral outbreak. Some have been seriously ill, and some have tragically lost loved ones. Please reach out to your friends and classmates. We are more resilient as a community. 

Please take care,

Kyongbum Lee
Professor and Chair

2019-2020 Department Newsletter

Learn more about the past year in Tufts ChBE