Welcome to the BioProducts Engineering Laboratory

At the heart of Washington University in St. Louis, nestled within the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, the BioProducts Engineering Laboratory stands as a beacon of innovation and sustainability. Guided by a profound commitment to transforming how we view and utilize carbon waste, our lab is dedicated to pioneering research that marries environmental stewardship with scientific ingenuity.

Our Mission

In an era where the sustainability of our planet hinges on the actions we take today, BioProducts Engineering Laboratory is committed to leading the charge in developing technologies that convert carbon waste streams into valuable bioproducts. From dedicated energy crops to agricultural residues, and from forest remnants to discarded plastics, our research focuses on harnessing catalytic, thermal, and biological processes to recycle carbon in ways previously unimagined.

Our work transcends traditional boundaries, aiming to:

  • Redefine Waste: By viewing waste carbon sources as untapped resources, we strive to revolutionize how society perceives and utilizes these abundant materials.
  • Innovate for Impact: Through the development of cutting-edge technologies for biopolymer depolymerization, biomass characterization, and the synthesis of renewable polymers and composites, we are setting new benchmarks for what is achievable in the realm of sustainable bioproducts.
  • Empower through Knowledge: Education and collaboration are at the core of our mission. We are not just researchers; we are educators, mentors, and partners in a global effort to foster a more sustainable future.

Our vision is bold: to create a future where every waste stream is seen as a potential source of value, contributing to a circular economy that benefits society, the economy, and the planet. Join us as we work towards this future, one innovation at a time.

Welcome to our journey. Welcome to the BioProducts Engineering Laboratory!

Latest News & Achievements:

  • July 2024: Morgan and Aditya successfully defended their PhD theses. Congratulations Dr.Li and Dr.Ponukumati! Best wishes for your future career!
  • May 2024: Professor Foston had a personal interview at Wiley Analytical Science magazine for the topic: Taking team science to plastic pollution. The interview talked about the $3.6 million, interdisciplinary center to develop nature-inspired alternatives to plastics for widespread application launched at Washington University in St Louis. Headed up by Professors Foston and Fuzhong Zhang from the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington, ‘SMARC’ – Synthetic Biology Manufacturing of Advanced Materials Research Center – brings together experts in synthetic biology, machine learning, polymer science, material mechanics, and computational material simulation. This interdisciplinary team intends to develop new, high-performance, sustainably sourced, and biodegradable plastics that will be adopted by industry.
  • March 2024: Morgan presented a poster on the CEMB project entitled “Spatial Distribution of Glycosaminoglycans in Electrospun Gelatin-based Fibers” in the 2024 Mechanobiology Symposium and Retreat in Philadelphia, PA.
  • January 2024: Jialiang’s paper on lignin depolymerization using In Situ Small-Angle Neutron Scattering was published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. Congratulations, Jialiang! Also read more about our lignin projects here and our Biomass Conversion and In-situ Characterization projects here.
  • December 2023: Aditya submitted a paper “Deciphering Lignin Depolymerization: Catalyst and Solvent Influences on Product Diversity and Composition”. Also read more about our lignin projects here.
  • November 2023: During the 2023 AIChE National Meeting, Jialiang gave a talk “In-Situ Neutron Scattering of the Lignin Liquid-Phase Depolymerization with a Heterogeneous Catalyst” in Orlando, FL; during this meeting, Morgan also presented two posters entitled “Surface and Sub-Surface Analyses of Electrospun Gelatin and Gelatin-Chondroitin Sulfate Scaffolds for Biological Applications” and “ Mechano-Chemical Analyses of Plant Cell Walls at Nanoscale Using Atomic Force Microscopy Coupled with Infrared Spectroscopy (AFM-IR)”, respectively.
  • October 2023: During the 2023 ACS MidWest & Great Lakes Regional Meeting, Jerry presented a poster entitled “Synthesis of Biocompatible, Renewable Protein Nanocomposites Reinforced by Surface-modified Cellulose Nanocrystals” in St. Louis, MO; Jialiang also gave a talk “In-Situ NMR of Lignin Model Polymer Catalytic Depolymerization” during the meeting in St. Louis, MO; Morgan gave a talk “Surface and Sub-surface Spatial Distribution Analysis of Native Glycosaminoglycans in Electrospun Gelatin-based Composites” in person in St. Louis, MO.

Join Our Effort:

Open Lab Positions (2024-2025)

  • 2-3 PhD student position: depolymerization of lignin or upcycling waste plastics into valuable monomeric products
  • 1 Postdoc position:  develop and deploy scanning probe microscopy methods to understand recombinant peptide-peptide interaction, stiffing behavior of recombinant protein free standing films, nanoscale mechanochemical correlations and heterogeneity in plant cell wall and animal extracellular matrix (ECM), nanomechanical properties in the interphase of cellulose nanocrystal composites, and more
  • 1-2 undergraduate positions available

Major interest

  • Heterogeneous and liquid-phase catalysis
  • Biopolymer depolymerization
  • Operando NMR spectroscopy
  • Biomass and biomass depolymerization product characterization
  • Renewable synthetic polymers
  • Lignin chemistry
  • Mechanobiology