ChE Seminar Series: Kevin V. Solomon, Ph.D.

Date(s) - 01/09/2024
9:00 am - 10:00 am

HPNP 1404


Title: Microbial solutions for capturing and upcycling waste carbon in recalcitrant polymers

Kevin V. Solomon, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
University of Delaware

Microbial chemical factories are sustainable biomanufacturing platforms that complement traditional petrochemical industries by using renewable and/or alternative carbon sources. Most attractive of these are those derived from unconventional microbes due to their rich repertoire of enzymes to efficiently process diverse carbon sources and unique capacity to catalyze certain industrial chemistries at scale. These properties are frequently a consequence of the high resource competition in their native exotic environments, such as animal microbiomes. However, these microbes remain poorly characterized with few tools to deploy them for industrial applications. In this talk, I will describe our progress towards the study and engineering of these systems for the use of post-consumer plastics and lignocellulosic biomass. In the first example, I will discuss anaerobic fungi native to large herbivore digestive tracts and describe approaches to deploy them today for direct production of fragrances and solvents from untreated agricultural residues. In the second example, I share our efforts discovering powerful enzymes for degradation of polypropylene and polystyrene from microbes native to the mealworm gut microbiome and efforts to engineer these strains.

Dr. Kevin Solomon is an Associate Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering from McMaster University (Canada), an MS in Chemical Engineering Practice from MIT and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from MIT. He has been recognized with multiple awards for research, teaching, and service including a US Department of Energy Early Career Award (2019), an NSF CAREER Award (2022), the Society for Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology (SIMB) Early Career Award (2022), the Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award from NOBCChE (2023), the American Chemical Society (ACS) Biochemical Technology (BIOT) Division Early Career Award (2023) and the AIChE Division 15 Early Career Award (2023). He has provided expert testimony before the 116th US House of Representatives on the convergence of engineering and biology and has coauthored several technology roadmaps for engineering biology. His work focuses on developing environmental microbes and microbiomes that are well-adapted for applications in sustainability, materials, and health.