Hal Alper in his lab. Photo credit: Charlotte Keene.
Hal Alper in the Alper Laboratory. Photo credit: Charlotte Keene, The Daily Texan.

Texas ChE Professor Hal Alper, Kenneth A. Kobe Professor in Chemical Engineering and Executive Director of the Center for Biomedical Research Support at UT Austin, wins the Andreas Acrivos Award for Professional Progress from the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE) for his work on the uses of cells.

Specifically, Dr. Alper is being recognized with the nationally acclaimed chemical engineering award at the 2023 AIChE Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida in November “for pioneering contributions in the fields of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, and for profoundly impacting the field of industrial biotechnology.” He and his team create new molecules and manipulate cells to remediate waste. 

The topic that we explore is really the use of biology to solve sustainability problems,” Alper said. “It is the application of engineering principles to biology.

Alper and his students work to solve environmental concerns using biochemical technology. For example, he received recognition for the development of enzymes that can degrade plastic

“It’s something that’s very easy to communicate outside of a scientific community that people very clearly understand the impact of,” said Angela Gordillo Sierra, a chemical engineering graduate student and one of Alper’s mentees. There is still much ground to cover, Sierra said. However, she said, every breakthrough is a step towards resolving major sustainability issues.

“In everything that we do, we’re uncovering new design principles, new challenges and overcoming those,” Alper said. “We’re excited about the prospect of everything that we do within the lab.”

Beyond his role as a scientist, Alper guides students of all levels, setting them on their academic and professional trajectories, Sierra said. By organizing seminars, helping his students network and giving them more responsibility in the lab, Alper sets up his students for success.

“I got a lot out of when I was mentored as an undergraduate student,” Alper said. “A lot of what drives me is trying to give back, trying to give people that same type of opportunity to learn and explore.”

Alper joins these other Texas ChE connections who have previously won this award: 

  • 2022 Rachel A. Segalman (Texas ChE ’98)
  • 2012 Brain Korgel (current faculty)
  • 2006 Joan F. Brennecke (Texas ChE ’84, current faculty)
  • 2003 George Georgiou (current faculty)
  • 1996 Robert Brown (Texas ChE ’73)

Article originally posted on The Daily Texan