Coulter BME Seminar Series
This event is also offered virtually. Please click here to join via Zoom.
"Engineering Phage to Grow and Assemble Materials for Energy, the Environment and Medicine"
Angela Belcher, Ph.D.
James Mason Crafts Professor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Organisms have been making exquisite inorganic materials for over 500 million years. Although these materials have many desired physical properties such as strength, regularity, and environmentally benign processing, the types of materials that organisms have evolved to work with are limited. However, there are many properties of living systems that could be potentially harnessed by researchers to make advanced technologies that are smarter, more adaptable, and that are synthesized to be compatible with the environment. One approach to designing future technologies which have some of the properties that living organisms use so well, is to evolve organisms to work with a more diverse set of building blocks. The goal is to have a DNA sequence that codes for the synthesis and assembly of any inorganic material or device. We have been successful in using evolutionarily selected peptides to control physical properties of nanocrystals and subsequently use molecular recognition and self-assembly to design biological hybrid multidimensional materials. These materials could be designed to address many scientific and technological problems in electronics, environmental remediation, medicine, and energy applications. Currently we are using this technology to design new methods for building batteries, fuel cells, solar cells, carbon sequestration and storage, environmental remediation, catalysis, and medical diagnostics and imaging. This talk will address conditions under which organisms first evolved to make materials and scientific approaches to move beyond naturally evolved materials to genetically imprint advanced technologies with examples in lithium and sodium ion batteries, lithium- air batteries, environmental clean-up and ovarian cancer imaging and treatment.
Professor Angela Belcher is the James Mason Crafts Professor of Biological Engineering, Materials Science and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and the head of the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT. She is a biological and materials engineer with expertise in the fields of biomaterials, biomolecular materials, organic-inorganic interfaces and solid-state chemistry and devices. Her primary research focus is evolving new materials for energy, electronics, the environment, and medicine. She received her B.S. in Creative Studies from The University of California, Santa Barbara. She earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at UCSB in 1997. Following her postdoctoral research in electrical engineering at UCSB, she joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Chemistry. She joined the faculty at MIT in 2002. Some recent awards include 2022 NAS (National Academy of Science), 2018 NAE (National Academy of Engineers) Fellow, 2015 NAI (National Academy of Inventors) Fellow, the 2013 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for her Inventions, 2012 AAAS (American Academy of Arts and Sciences) Fellow, a MacArthur Fellow, 2010 Eni Prize for Renewable and Non-conventional Energy, in 2009 Rolling Stone Magazine listed her as one of the top 100 people changing the country. She has founded five companies. She also holds 36 patents with many pending. In July 2019, she took over as the head of the Biological Engineering Department at MIT. In 2022 she joined the National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology.