Alper Wins Biotechnology and Bioengineering Daniel I.C. Wang Award

Headshot of Assistant Professor Hal AlperHal Alper has won the 2013 Biotechnology and Bioengineering Daniel I.C. Wang Award for his research in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology.  The award is presented by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.  The award recognizes a young member of the biotechnology/bioengineering academic community for commitment to the journal and the community it serves.

“Hal is without question the most prominent researcher in metabolic engineering under 40 years old,” said George Georgiou, professor of biomedical and chemical engineering and the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering No. 9.  “His doctoral work has become a classic in the field. Hal and his students have made seminal contributions both in the development of organisms for the product of biofuels and innovative new tools for metabolic engineering. He is also a terrific teacher and recently won the most prestigious teaching award given by the UT Systems’ Board of Regents.”

Alper is particularly recognized for his recent paper in Biotechnology and Bioengineering titled “Controlling promoter strength and regulation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae using synthetic hybrid promoters.”  The paper is co-authored by graduate student, John Blazeck and several undergraduates from his lab.  The research describes a novel, synthetic biology framework for designing yeast promoters, a key element for controlling transcription levels in cells.  The immediate importance of this paper was recognized by the journal when it was selected as one of four articles specifically highlighted in its November 2012 issue.

Hal Alper in the lab working with samplesAlper’s research is to design cellular systems to produce organic molecules of interest such as biofuels, commodity and specialty chemicals and protein pharmaceuticals.  His team alters cells and “hijacks” the basic metabolism to convert cellular systems in biochemical factories.  In doing so, he bridges the area of biochemical engineering and industrial process chemistry.

The award consists of a plaque, an honorarium of $3,000, and acknowledgement of the award in the journal.  The award will be presented during a special ceremony at the 2013 American Chemical Society Annual Meeting in New Orleans in April.

Alper earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2002 and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006. He was a postdoctoral research associate at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 2006 to 2008, and at Shire Human Genetic therapies in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 2007 to 2008.


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