Research in Chemical and Biological Engineering

Innovative research is the heart of the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Our faculty is an outstanding group of scholars whose interests span both traditional and emerging areas of research in chemical engineering. Their work puts them at the forefront of chemical engineering research, and many have been recognized for their contributions with awards from national and international organizations. Among our current faculty, 12 have won NSF CAREER (or precursor) awards and three have won Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Our research and teaching programs are enriched by a full program of research seminars and the many visiting professors from the United States and abroad.

The interests and activities and selected publications of our faculty members are described elsewhere. Those interested in more detailed information are encouraged to correspond directly with individual faculty members.

Interdisciplinary Research

Research activities in chemical engineering span a wide range of techniques and approaches, many of which are also of interest to other disciplines. Consequently, our faculty and graduate students often benefit from collaboration with researchers in other departments and in interdisciplinary programs. For instance, the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, under the direction of Professor Nicholas L. Abbott, draws together investigators from engineering and natural science disciplines. The Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, directed by Associate Professor Padma Gopalan, brings together faculty from more than ten fields to explore the concept of self-assembly at the nanoscale.

Industrial consortia, which sponsor research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, demonstrate the strong corporate interest in several of our interdisciplinary research programs.

Faculty and graduate students from the department are involved in research programs at the Rheology Research Center, the Solar Energy Laboratory, the Center for Dairy Research, the Forest Products Laboratory, the Center for Mathematical Sciences, the Institute for Enzyme Research, the Biotechnology Center and the UW Sea Grant Institute. Our graduate students have collaborated with researchers in the Departments of Physics, Statistics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Food Science; the Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy; and the Environmental Chemistry and Technology Program.

The university’s Biotechnology Training Program, in which several of our faculty members participate, offers traineeships funded by the largest National Institutes of Health training grant in biotechnology. Chemical engineering trainees benefit from cross-disciplinary training in the biological aspects of biotechnology, participate in weekly seminars, and gain valuable experience through an industrial internship. U.S. citizens and permanent residents who wish to be considered for this program should indicate their interest in their statement of purpose.


The department office and most faculty offices and labs are concentrated in Engineering Hall.

Research labs are equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation for studies in rheology, electrochemistry, polymer science, biotechnology, solid-state chemistry, surface chemistry and catalysis, chromatography, process control and reaction engineering. Modern electronics and computers are used for data acquisition and control of experiments.

Many facilities are available for research in solid-state chemistry, surface science and catalysis, including Auger electron, Mössbauer, X-ray and ultraviolet photoelectron, FTIR and laser Raman spectroscopies as well as microcalorimetry and various solid-state laser spectroscopies. A solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer is used to characterize catalysts, polymers and other materials.

Research in polymers and materials uses techniques such as atomic force microscopy, X-ray scattering, melt rheometry and dynamic mechanical spectroscopy. Extensive facilities are available for studies in polymerization reaction engineering.

Department instruments are supplemented by other campus research facilities, such as scanning and transmission electron microscopes, high-resolution mass spectrometers and controlled environment chambers.

Our biotechnology facilities include labs for static and dynamic light scattering, spectrofluorimetry, radiochemical analysis, protein purification and cell culture. The Biotechnology Center provides a variety of facilities for biochemical engineering research, including DNA sequencing, oligonucleotide synthesis, protein sequencing, peptide synthesis, protein purification and monoclonal antibody production. A new state-of-the-art Biophysics Instrumentation Facility houses biochemistry and microscopy instrumentation.

The department’s teaching labs are equipped to support undergraduate courses in transport phenomena, unit operations, process dynamics and control, electrochemistry, polymer science, chromatography, biochemical engineering, catalyst development and instrumental analysis. The UW-Madison Libraries rank as one of the leading research collections in North America. Kurt F. Wendt Commons has an extensive collection and information services covering all branches of engineering, computer science, and statistics.

Computing facilities on campus and in the department are excellent. A full-time computer specialist maintains the department’s computing facilities and serves as a hardware and software consultant to research groups. The Computer-aided Engineering center provides a variety of computers for general use. The Division of Information Technology, serving the campus, offers consulting services, short courses, graphics and plotting capabilities and a library of user-oriented programs.

Department machine and electronics shops aid the design, construction and repair of research equipment.

Research Areas