Gang Fan and Christopher Dundas Win Paper of the Year

Pictured: Gang Fan and Chris Dundas stand outside Texas ChE.Gang Fan and Christopher Dundas have been awarded the 2018 Graduate Student Paper of the Year Award and the Dr. Robert Schechter Endowed Excellence Fund in Chemical Engineering for their paper entitled “S. oneidensis as a Living Electrode for Controlled Radical Polymerization,” published in PNAS.

In their paper, Gang and Christopher paired the bacterium Shewanella oneidensis with a redox-active metal catalyst and found that they could control a non-biological polymerization reaction. “By changing the identity of the metal catalyst, what carbon source we fed the bacteria and what electron transport proteins the bacteria were producing, we could tune the reaction rate and properties of the formed polymers,” says Christopher.

“A novel synthetic system that combines genetic engineering with traditional organometallic catalysis could pave new avenues to new polymer synthesis,” Gang says. “A bacteria-produced polymer could become an alternative from the one produced by the traditional chemical synthesis in the fossil fuel industry.” The technique allows for the creation of plastics with different physical and chemical characteristics and has the potential to make the polymerization industry greener and cheaper in the future.

“Not only did we demonstrate that this bacterium could ‘power’ a polymerization reaction, but that manipulating the bacterium’s genetics and metabolism unlocks the potential to control material formation and suggests it can be used to expand the scope of reactions available to biological engineers,” says Christopher.

Their work is the first example which shows that electroactive bacteria can control free radical polymerization.

“Christopher and Gang’s work is a great demonstration of researchers with different expertise working together to accomplish a unique goal. Both Prof. Lynd and I are delighted that they were recognized with this honor and excited to see where they take their research next,” says Dr. Benjamin Keitz, assistant professor.

“There have been so many important research breakthroughs happening in the department each year,” says Gang. “To be selected and recognized as the Graduate Student Paper of the Year is such an honor.”

“I was very excited to recognized for the Paper of the Year Award, along with my co-author and friend, Gang Fan. I’m sincerely grateful to be part of the team of co-authors and collaborators who helped contribute to this multidisciplinary study,” Christopher says.

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