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ChBE Spring 2019 Seminar "Synthetic Biology: Putting Synthesis into Biology

Event Date 

February 13, 2019 - 3:15pm to 4:30pm


Perlstein Hall Auditorium, Room 131

10 West 33rd Street

Chicago, IL 60616


Armour College of Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering Department will host a seminar featuring Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Bioengineering, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Huimin Zhao, PhD.  He will present his lecture, "Synthetic Biology: Putting Synthesis into Biology”


Synthetic biology is the design of novel or improved biological systems using engineering principles. It is a rapidly growing area with broad applications in medical, chemical, food, and agricultural industries. In this talk, I will highlight our recent work in the development and application of novel foundational synthetic biology tools. Specifically, I will introduce four interrelated stories, including: (1) development of the Illinois Biological Foundry for Advanced Biomanufacturing (iBioFAB) for next-generation synthetic biology applications; (2) development of new strategies and tools for discovery of novel natural products from genomes and metagenomes; (3) development of genome-scale engineering tools for rapid metabolic engineering applications, and (4) integration of biocatalysis and chemical catalysis for synthesis of value-added chemicals.

Short Biography:

Dr. Huimin Zhao is the Steven L. Miller Chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and professor of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).  He received his B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992 and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 under the guidance of Dr. Frances Arnold.  Prior to joining UIUC in 2000, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company.  He was promoted to full professor in 2008.  Dr. Zhao has authored and co-authored over 290 research articles and over 20 issued and pending patent applications with several being licensed by industry.  In addition, he has given over 350 plenary, keynote or invited lectures in international meetings, universities, industries, and research institutes.  Twenty-one (21) of his former graduate students and postdocs became professors in the United States (8), China (10), Korea (2), and Egypt (1). Dr. Zhao received numerous research and teaching awards and honors, such as Marvin Johnson Award (2018), Charles Thom Award (2016), Elmer Gaden Award (2014), and Guggenheim Fellowship (2012). His primary research interests are in the development and applications of synthetic biology tools to address society’s most daunting challenges in health, energy, and sustainability, and in the fundamental aspects of enzyme catalysis, cell metabolism, gene regulation, and cell differentiation.