Kumar receives NSF CAREER Award to develop bioinspired filtration membranes
Manish Kumar, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Penn State, was recently awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The prestigious NSF CAREER Award supports junior faculty who exemplify excellence in teaching, research and the integration of education and research to advance the mission of their organization. Support is given in the form of a five-year research grant.
Kumar was awarded $500,000 for his proposal, “Bioinspired Artificial Channel Water Treatment Membranes,” which aims to develop scalable, synthetic protein membranes that can be used to conduct energy efficient water filtration.
The work builds upon Kumar’s related research, which focuses on native water channel proteins of the cell membrane that facilitate rapid, highly selective water transport.
Kumar’s group seeks to mimic the proteins synthetically, which will allow for large- scale production, and a decrease in the total energy footprint.
The research could potentially aid a number of water-stressed countries around the globe.
“My goal is to position Penn State at the forefront of this new area of bio-inspired and biomimetic membrane research,” said Kumar. “I want to build a team of graduate and undergraduate students and collaborators that can work to evaluate these channels in biological systems, recreate them synthetically, and incorporate them into large scale membranes.”
In addition to support received from colleagues and collaborators on the proposal, Kumar also noted the immense support received through the Penn State College of Engineering, particularly through their CAREER workshop and organized review and mentoring sessions.
The CAREER award will also support efforts to evaluate the relative effectiveness of various models of undergraduate student engagement in research. Kumar is currently conducting this work in collaboration with Sarah Zappe, director of assessment and instructional support for The Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education.
Kumar joined the Department of Chemical Engineering in 2011. He currently leads the Synthetic, Biomimetic, and Bioinspired Membranes Lab for Energy and the Environment at Penn State, and co-directs the Department of Chemical Engineering’s summer research program for undergraduate students (funded by the NSF) and the department’s endowed BioFellowship program. In addition, he serves as a department representative for the College of Engineering Global Leadership in Engineering Education committee and the college’s Engineering Energy & Environmental Institute.
Kumar is passionate about water supply, conservation and treatment outreach. He also co-directs the annual Science-U Water Heroes camp for middle school students, hosted by Penn State’s Eberly College of Science.