2006 Lectureship Recipient

Professor Michael Shuler

School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Cornell University


"Animal-On-A-Chip: Towards Preventive Toxicology"

Our vision is to develop a framework using computer and experimental models to quantitatively and explicitly link genomic/molecular insights to the physiology of whole organisms. We seek to understand the response of the human body to various pharmaceutical and environmental chemicals. We are using microtechnology to make a device that will become a model for ADMET (Adsorption-Distribution-Metabolism-Elimination-Toxicity) studies of potential pharmaceuticals. This device is called a micro cell culture analog (microCCA). A CCA uses mammalian cells cultured in interconnected chambers to physically represent a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model (PBPK) or a whole body model. When a CCA system is used in conjunction with a PBPK model, it can estimate human response to chemicals and link molecular mechanism to system response. We have done proof-of-concept experiments with naphthalene and have tested the potential toxicity of several naphthalene derivatives of potential use in cosmetics. We are also extending this approach to evaluate multidrug therapy of cancer.


"Biochemical Engineering: Creating Societal Value from Our Emerging Understanding of Life"

Over the last decade we have gained the tools necessary to begin to understand life at its most fundamental level. The potential benefit to society from this understanding is enormous in terms of impact on human welfare. I believe that the engagement of chemical engineers with biologists is the key factor in attaining the maximum benefit to society. The challenge to chemical engineering educators and the profession is how do we best prepare students to contribute successfully to this emerging area?
The traditional strengths of chemical engineers are their ability to think quantitatively across length and time scales and to integrate molecular level phenomena into an understanding of the static and dynamic responses of macroscopic systems. This ability to integrate emerging biological knowledge across scales is essential to emerging area of systems biology. Further, this multilevel quantitative thinking coupled with the principles of chemical reactor engineering, transport phenomena and thermodynamics provides the ideal framework to make useful inventions. The fruits of this approach should be effective processes to make chemicals, fuels, and therapeutics as well as approaches to diagnosis, treat and prevent disease.
Chemical engineering education needs to view biology (esp. biochemistry) as a foundational science essential to chemical engineering. The bigger challenge is how do we effectively integrate biology into the core curriculum? I hope this lecture will stimulate practical answers to meet this challenge.