We are interested in making unique combinations of biological molecules and polymers to develop materials that combine the exquisite specificity and functionality of biological molecules with the physical toughness and engineering ability of polymers. We have chosen block copolymers as mimics for lipid molecules and membrane proteins as the functional protein elements.
The short term goal of our group is to understand protein polymer interactions and develop devices and membranes inspired by cell membranes. The longer term goal is to emulate these native biological structures with robust polymeric or engineered protein structural elements.
Given the PI's background in industrial research into membranes for water and wastewater treatment, we are very interested in improving current synthetic membranes used in the process, water, energy, and biotech industries with a heavy focus on water treatment, reuse and desalination. We are utilizing innovative methods to study structure of and transport across these membranes and developing new methods to control fouling and improve efficiency.
The first three papers to be published in 2017 from our group represent our seemingly diverse but ultimately integrated research perfectly. These papers represent our intersecting interests in the biophysics of transport in biological membranes, the fundamental challenges of integration of these proteins and their mimics into scalable materials, and the use of the knowledge gained from the above fundamental studies and our process expertise to improve water purification (and other) technologies.
1. Understanding transport in aquaporin 0, the “slow” water channel present in mammalian eyes, and demonstrating a 40x increase in transport rates using two key mutations. Biophysical Journal (accepted).
2. Integrating enzymes with electrodes. In this review we discuss Biomimetic and Bioinspired ideas for integrating redox enzymes including membrane proteins with polymers, lipids and electrodes. Energy and Environmental Science.
3. A review on the current status of membrane desalination, and new ideas to move this field forward including channel-based membranes, fouling resistant membranes, and desalination powered by renewable energy. It also summarizes the challenges of concentration polarization, brine disposal and oxidation resistant desalination membranes. The Bridge, National Academy of Engineering.
June 2017: The Kumar group had a good AEESP (American Association of Environmental Engineering Professors) Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Manish won one of the two non-student best presentation awards based on our work on probiotic biofilms to prevent membrane fouling! Boya and Yuexiao attended the conference as well.
June 2017: Tingwei's first paper is online in the new journal from Wiley, Advanced Biosystems. This is a paper our group has been working on for years and deals with defining compatibility between polymers and membrane proteins. Check it out here.
June 2017: Raj Guha and Ben Schantz defend their PhD theses. They are the fourth and fifth PhD students graduating from our group. Congratulations!
May 2017: Our group receives two new NSF grants. See details here and here.
May 2017: Boya is featured in a video produced by the CEE Department at Penn State. Check this video out here.
April 2017: Kumar group undergraduate researcher and Schreyer Honors Scholar Elsa Koninckx is student marshall for Chemical Engineering. See news item here. We are very proud of her!
April 2017: Both Cory and Megan win the Pennsylvania Space Grant Graduate Scholarship!
April 2017: Tingwei wins multiple accolades. She recently received the Air Products Graduate Fellowship which includes a summer internship at Air Products and a full year of funding! This is a highly sought after opportunity in our department. Tingwei also placed first in the College of Engineering Research Symposium poster competition!
April 2017: Kumar group undergraduate researcher John Brezovec has won a DAAD RISE scholarship to conduct research in Germany for 3 months this summer. He will be working at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam. He will be working on Giant Unilamellar Vesicles.
March 2017: Megan wins the NSF Graduate Fellowship! Also, Kumar group undergraduate researcher, Kevin Shebek who is now at Northwestern, receives honorable mention.
March 2017: Our paper on the permeability of the eye lens aquaporin, AQP0, and mutations for increasing its permeability 40x is online on the Biophysical Journal website. Check it out here. It was also featured in a "slider" on Biophysical Journal's home page! It will be available here for a few weeks.
February 2017: Dow Chemical confirmed funding of a large collaborative project between the Kumar and Wood groups on Living Antibiofouling Membranes based on an idea from our recent paper. This project is estimated to 3 years long. We are excited to work with some fantastic collaborators at Dow.
February 2017 (updated!): Our paper on polymer exchange in detergent micelles studied using Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS), relevant to incorporation of membrane proteins in block copolymers, was accepted for publication in Macromolecules after a year of repeat experiments and revisions. Congratulations Ben and Patrick and thank you to collaborators Kyle Bishop (Columbia) and Paul Butler (NIST). Here is a link to the paper.
February 2017: Manish had a wonderful visit to Taiwan with the Industrial Technology Research Institute and National Taiwan University. Thank you to Daniel Tai (ITRI) for hosting me, it was a wonderful experience. Also thank you to Allan Tung for hosting me at NTU and arranging for the seminar. It was great to see so many bright students. We look forward to collaborations in the near future.
February 2017: Hasin attended the Biophysical Society Meeting in New Orleans. She was a finalist for the SRAA poster presentation prize for her work on rhodopsins. Congratulations Hasin
February 2017: Two undergraduate education related papers based on our collaborative work were accepted. They are listed below. Watch this space for links.
1. Follmer DJ, Zappe SE, Gomez E. & Kumar M. (2017). Student outcomes from undergraduate research programs: Comparing research experiences for undergraduates (REU) models. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly (accepted).
2. Follmer DJ, Zappe SE, Gomez E. & Kumar M. (2017). Results and Implications of a Three-Year Evaluation of a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program in Chemical Engineering. Chemical Engineering Education (accepted).
January 2017: Chao Lang joins our group as a postdoc. Chao is an expert in synthetic channel synthesis and completed his PhD at Jilin University. Welcome Chao!. Check out Chao's impressive profile on our People page.
December 2016: A paper that Manish, Tyler, and Yuexiao wrote as a part of Manish’s invited presentation at the National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Conference (2016) was selected for publication. This article was published in the winter edition of NAE’s quarterly “The Bridge”. It can be downloaded at this link and is titled "Water Desalination: History, Advances, and Challenges". This is indeed an honor for our young group!
November 2016: Penn State Materials Research Institute recently published their quarterly magazine "Focus on Materials" with the theme “Water”. Several of our collaborations including those with Andrew Zydney, Stephanie Velegol, and Chris Gorksi were highlighted. Our lab was featured as well. Check it out here.
November 2016: Our review paper on biomimetic approaches for linking redox proteins to electrodes was accepted by Energy and Environmental Science and is online. Great job Patrick, Emelia and Megan! I still cannot believe you guys put this very detailed paper together in 2-3 months. You can check out the accepted manuscript here.
October 2016: Our proposal to host a Faraday Discussions conference on Artificial Channels has been accepted. These discussions are important gatherings of experts in a research subspecialty and shows the growing influence of a particular research area. See more details in this cool video here. Collaborator Mihail Barboiu will be the chair and Manish will be the Deputy Chair.
October 2016: Four new graduate students join our group. Welcome Cory, Derrick, Rebeca, and Woochul! Read about them on the People page.
September 2016: Our collaborative paper with the Zimmer, Nixon and Bulone groups showing that a single isoform of plant (poplar) cellulose synthase is sufficient for cellulose microfibril formation was published in PNAS! Read it here.
September 2016: Patrick's paper on PSI in block copolymers and on block copolymer conductive interfaces linked to electrodes is published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A (after a long journey). Read it here.
July 2016: Several members of our lab visited the exciting Gordon Research Conference on Membranes: Materials and Processes.