My research is in the broad, interdisciplinary field of synthetic biology, which applies engineering principles to biology. Within this field, we apply chemical engineering tenets to reprogram the DNA of yeasts, bacteria, and fungi so their metabolism produces interesting molecules. By treating these cells as "chemical factories," we can approach and solve problems in biofuels, biomaterials, and biosensors from a chemical engineer's point of view. Our strengths are in the disciplines of metabolic engineering, protein engineering, and systems biology, which we use to construct novel synthetic microbes. We collaborate with researchers across WPI, other institutions, and biotechnology companies to solve problems by engineering biology.
In the classroom, I train students within the unique project-based learning approach at WPI. To me, there is no greater reward than teaching a new generation of problem solvers that will make meaningful contributions to all areas of chemical engineering, and beyond. This is enabled by WPI’s emphasis on technology & society, which creates an environment where students can attain technical proficiency, study social impacts, and develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Therefore, I integrate value creation and social consciousness into my biochemical engineering courses.
Professional Highlights & Honors
More than 150 media outlets, including The Oklahoman and The Pittsburg Post-Gazette, reported on Eric Young, Leonard P. Kinnicutt Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at WPI, who received four separate grants totaling more than $2 million to support his research into using yeast and fungi to take on significant genetic engineering challenges. Through his research in synthetic biology, Young aims to engineer organisms to make it easier to develop numerous products, like medicines, biofuels, and plastics, and increase security by developing a new method to detect hidden underground explosives.
The Worcester Business Journal reported on WPI and the University of Massachusetts Lowell partnering to award more than $111,000 in seed funding to six different teams, focusing on work ranging from human-robot collaboration to cancer detection and rehabilitation for stroke patients.