UD Engineering’s LaShanda Korley elected as a 2022 American Physical Society Fellow
University of Delaware College of Engineering Distinguished Professor LaShanda Korley has been elected as a 2022 Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) “for innovative bio-inspired strategies to control architecture, assembly, and mechanics of soft material systems.”
Korley, who holds appointments in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and her research group take inspiration from nature to design new polymers using innovative molecular-level design strategies and manufacturing approaches. Korley is also the director of UD’s Center for Plastics Innovation (CPI) and the co-director of the Center for Hybrid, Active, and Responsive Materials (CHARM).
By studying the architectures and design rules used by the natural world, Korley’s research helps materials scientists bridge the gap between fabricating simple, sustainable materials that also have a wide array of complex functions and downstream applications.
“Our group has a strategic vision on the interconnection between molecular design, engineering and materials science to design functional polymers,” Korley said about what makes her group unique. “We tackle the full macromolecular design spectrum from chemistry to processing to impact polymer architecture and function.”
Among her group’s long-standing research projects is their innovative work on spider silk, a biological material that Korley says continues to be a rich source of inspiration due to its unique and tunable mechanical behavior. Her group is also exploring the possibilities of using lignin, an organic polymer that is a component of tree bark, as a building block for plastics in lieu of petroleum-based products, as well as connecting polymeric features to new deconstruction and upgrading strategies for plastics waste.
“Professor Korley has made substantial contributions to understanding the polymer physics of network-forming systems through an exquisite mix of detailed polymer synthesis, materials characterization, and polymer processing,” said Thomas Epps, III, the Allan and Myra Ferguson Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, who nominated Korley for this award. “Her activities bring actionable insights that promote new applications of polymeric materials.”
Each year, APS, a scholarly society and publisher for the physics community, recognizes less than 1% of its members through the APS Fellowship Program. Korley’s outstanding contributions in bio-inspired materials science research was recognized by the Division of Polymer Physics, and she will receive her certificate at the APS annual meeting in March 2023.
“As a chemical engineer who works on polymer science and engineering, fundamental physical principles are what’s driving the design, so physics and engineering go hand in hand,” Korley said of being recognized by the APS. “If I’m designing a material at the molecular level, I have to understand and apply these underlying polymeric physics concepts.”
Along with her election as an APS Fellow, Korley is also a 2022 ACS Division of Polymer Materials Science and Engineering (PMSE) Fellow, a recipient of the 2021 AIChE Minority Affairs Committee (MAC) Gerry Lessells Award, was named a 2020 American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Fellow, and received the 2019 National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award.
“I am extremely pleased to see Professor Korley receive this well-deserved recognition, joining other Fellows within the department,” said Joshua Zide, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “Her work serves as an inspiration to her colleagues, and we are always happy to see others also recognize her impact in the world. Locally, we appreciate that she is also an outstanding citizen of the department, and the students appreciate her teaching and mentorship.”
Referring to what the future holds for her group, Korley said, “There’s still more molecular engineering to do, and lots of questions driven by trying to understand concepts from nature that we see around us and that inspires us. Overall, I feel honored by this recognition from APS — not just for myself, but for my students, because they are the ones that believe in our lab’s large-scale vision and drive the innovation that makes this work possible.”
Article by Erica K. Brockmeier | Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson | October 19, 2022
Professors Chen, Day, Pochan and Wang recognized for excellence in medical and biological engineering
Four faculty members from the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering have been recognized by the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) as members of the organization’s 2022 College of Fellows.
Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering Wilfred Chen, Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Emily Day, Department of Materials Science and Engineering Chair and Professor Darrin Pochan and Mechanical Engineering Professor Liyun Wang join 149 other fellows recognized this year by the AIMBE for “distinguished and continuing achievements in medical and biological engineering.”
“The election of four College of Engineering faculty members as fellows of the AIMBE speaks to the outstanding talent that can be found right here at the University of Delaware,” said Dean Levi Thompson. “Their work to tackle the grandest challenges we face globally has the full support of their colleagues and this College, and I’m proud to see the wave of new innovations happening in laboratories right here in Delaware.”
Election as an AIMBE Fellow is among the highest recognitions medical and biological engineers can receive, and this cohort of fellows highlights the importance of diversity in disciplines required to advance the future of these research areas. According to an AIMBE press release, only the top 2% of medical and biological engineers are elected to the College of Fellows. Previous Fellows include Nobel prize winners, over 200 members of the National Academy of Engineering and recipients of many other accolades and accomplishments.
The honor recognizes those who have made significant contributions to “engineering and medicine research, practice or education” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education,” according to the AIMBE.
The 2022 Fellows will be formally recognized at a virtual ceremony on Friday, March 25.
Meet the Fellows
Wilfred Chen, an expert in protein engineering and synthetic biology and professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, joined UD faculty in 2011 after spending 16 years as a professor at the University of California, where he also served as presidential chair of chemical engineering. He has served in editorial roles for multiple journals, and continues to serve as an editor, associate editor or on the editorial board of several publications and has written 250 peer-reviewed studies that have been cited over 20,000 times.
Chen described his work as looking at proteins like individual LEGO blocks and finding ways to put them together. “If I can do it correctly, they can perform the precise functions I want them to do,” he said.
The complex biomolecular engineering Chen undertakes in his lab could have broad implications on a more renewable-based “green economy,” such as finding biological systems to replace petroleum-derived chemicals, as needed to swiftly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid future climate disasters. His work could also improve cancer treatment, but more work needs to be done before a new biological-based option can replace painful chemotherapy treatments.
“This award is an honor, and validates that we have the expertise necessary to pursue a much larger scale of biomedical research in the future,” he said, noting UD’s new Institute for Engineering Driven Health announced in late 2021.
Emily Day, with the Department of Biomedical Engineering, joined UD in 2013 after completing her doctorate in bioengineering at Rice University and a postdoctoral fellowship in chemistry at Northwestern University. Her lab at UD develops innovative nanomaterials that enable high precision therapy of cancer, blood disorders and other diseases while also studying nanoparticle interactions with biological systems from the subcellular-level to a whole-organism perspective. Day also has been recognized with an NSF CAREER Award along with dozens of other awards and grant honors.
The general idea of her work, Day said, is to “make carriers that can get therapeutic cargo where it needs to go in the body in a more precise and more effective way.”
Day said she is honored to be an AIMBE Fellow and excited by the advocacy opportunities the organization provides, as it will enable her to be a voice for science-supported policies promoting biomedical research that can ultimately improve patient care.
“Being a Fellow of AIMBE is not just an honor, but also a responsibility,” Day said. “The election of four UD faculty members this year demonstrates that the type of research being done in our College is top-quality science worthy of national recognition and that our faculty members are true advocates for the advancement of biomedical research.”
Darrin Pochan, who leads the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, joined the UD faculty in 1999 as one of the first members of the then-new Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles with more than 22,000 citations and was named chair in 2014. Among other accolades, he is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom.
His research team uses tools from biology, such as biomolecules like peptides, to harness their complexities for the creation of future biomedical materials and sustainable materials. His highly collaborative pursuits, which he said rely on close partnerships with computational, chemistry and biology experts, ultimately aim to address the world’s grandest challenges, from having organs available for transplants to biodegradable polymer materials.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by institutions such as the AIMBE that are quite interdisciplinary,” Pochan said. “At UD, we attract world experts in these fields, and fellowships in these societies recognize this leadership. This really highlights the exciting, interdisciplinary nature of the world-class research we do at the University of Delaware.”
Liyun Wang, a biomechanics expert in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, joined the faculty at UD in 2005 following postdoctoral research in orthopedics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She serves as director for UD’s Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research and co-director of the Multiscale Assessment Research Core in UD’s new Delaware Center for Musculoskeletal Research. She also is a member of several notable professional organizations, including the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, the Biomedical Engineering Society and the Orthopedic Researchers Society.
Wang’s research has focused on how mechanical forces affect body functions, particularly for patients who may be suffering from other health conditions such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or cancer — or the new realm of “mechanobiology,” she explained. Wang said it was the collaborations not only in her lab, but across the College and University that have helped propel her cross-disciplinary work in musculoskeletal research to earn the recognition of groups like the AIMBE.
“Our ultimate goal is to amplify and increase the efficiency and safety of exercise on both healthy people and patient populations,” Wang said. “This honor is a recognition of all the hard work done by my former and current students and postdocs, as well as my collaborators.”
These four fellows join 13 other University of Delaware faculty members (past and current) that have been named AIMBE Fellows. Past honorees include E. Terry Papoutsakis (Class of Fellows 1993), Abraham M. Lenhoff (2003), David C. Martin (2005), Kelvin Lee (2010), Kristi Kiick (2012), Dawn M. Elliott (2013), Randall L. Duncan (2017), Millicent Sullivan (2017), Jill Higginson (2019), LaShanda Korley (2020) and Thomas Epps (2021).
Article by Maddy Lauria | Photo illustration by Joy Smoker