Melik Demirel named Huck Chair in Biomimetic Materials

Chris Spallino
January 30, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State, was recently named Lloyd and Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair in Biomimetic Materials by the University’s Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

"It's exciting to be able to support Professor Demirel and his work. Inspired by materials produced by life, he is making revolutionary new materials which can, in turn, solve life and health science problems,” said Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. “Translating back and forth across disciplinary boundaries is what Huck is all about."

For the past 16 years, Demirel, who also is director of the Center for Research on Advanced Fiber Technologies at Penn State, and his research team have focused on designing and fabricating advanced, functional nanoscale synthetic biomimetic materials and biological materials for use in the fields of energy, biomedicine, and national defense and security.

Biomimetics is an interdisciplinary field in which principles from engineering, chemistry and biology are applied to the synthesis of materials, synthetic systems or machines that have functions that mimic biological processes and natural materials and can be used to solve complex human problems. Synthetic biomimetic materials provide a wide range of structures and properties for controlled fabrication of enhanced materials, while synthetic biological materials involve using genetically encoded platform technologies to create new higher-order materials and composites, and in conjunction with additive manufacturing, to fabricate multifunctional materials.

Mimicry of models, systems and elements of nature into synthetic constructs is highly desirable because natural systems are optimally adapted to the environment. At the nanoscale level, biomimetic concepts are based on assembly of molecules or macromolecular complexes.

Demirel’s current research focuses on recent advances in biotechnology and materials science for biosynthesis of eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable materials (i.e., biodegradable, self-healing and self-repairing) that are an excellent alternative to plastics. These materials could be produced easily from renewable resources at reduced cost and hold great promise to provide a broad range of industrial solutions.

“Natural materials have been a fundamental part of human life since the dawn of civilization; however, due to exploitation of natural resources and cost issues, synthetic materials have replaced bioderived materials in the last century,” said Demirel. “My hope is that our work will expedite the design, fabrication and synthesis of eco-friendly and recyclable advanced nanomaterials and devices that can have long-term global impact by minimizing waste and pollution.”

Throughout his career, Demirel has been recognized for his innovation and research with several awards, including a Penn State Engineering Alumni Society Outstanding Research Award (2013), the Nicholas and Gelsa Pelick Biotechnology Innovation Award (2008), and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2007).

Demirel earned a doctorate in materials science and engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2002. He received both his master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in engineering from Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1998 and 1996, respectively.

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Last Updated January 30, 2019