Hal Alper receives AIChE’s Allan P. Colburn award


Hal Alper stands in his office.Dr. Hal Alper has been named the 2018 recipient of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE) Allan P. Colburn Award for Excellence in Publications by a Young Member of the Institute.

The Colburn award is one of the highest and most prestigious honors an early career chemical engineer can receive and recognizes significant contributions to the field and excellence in publications by a younger member of the institute.

“I am extraordinarily humbled to be selected for this high distinction.  In particular, when one looks through the list of past recipients to see so many of the major thought leaders within our field, I feel very honored to be included among them” says Alper, “I wish to thank all of my former and current students as well as funding sources for helping to make research ideas into realities for our future.”

Alper was nominated and selected for his seminal contributions in the field of biochemical engineering, which includes rewiring microbial systems to produce renewable chemicals, fuels, and materials. Alper’s research focusses on developing new ways to control the metabolism of cellular systems through efforts of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology.

His work has enabled technologies to establish synthetic control of gene expression and, as a result, creates novel approaches to chemical overproduction.  Examples of recent advances in the field include developing fungi capable of high level lipid production for biofuel and oleochemical applications and high level polyketide production for materials and pharmaceutical applications.

Based on these and other advancements, bio-based processes are quickly becoming a competitive alternative to traditional chemical synthesis. Alper’s research as led to seven US-issued patent and six additional patent applications with five technologies already licensed to several companies.  These technological innovations were recognized in 2016 when Alper received the UT Emerging Inventor of the Year Award.

Alper has authored over 90 peer-reviewed publications, nine book chapters and eight non-peer reviewed publications that have collectively garnered nearly 7,500 citations. He is considered an international leader in the fields of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology.

These advancements have also earned Alper many other accolades in the field including the American Chemical Society BIOT Division Young Investigator Award, Biotechnology and Bioengineering Daniel I.C. Wang Award, Jay Bailey Young Investigator Award in Metabolic Engineering, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, and recent election to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

In addition to his numerous research and publishing achievements, Alper has also mentored over 24 graduate and 82 undergraduate students and serves as the department’s Graduate Advisor, where he oversees admissions, recruiting and administering the graduate programming and has led several initiatives to increase student diversity which increased the enrollment of females in the program by over 40% and underrepresented minorities by 35%.

Alper will receive the award at an AIChE honors ceremony on October 28, during the institute’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh.


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