Principle Investigator & Professor of Chemical Engineering

Pennsylvanian thoroughbred. Eternal college kid. Intense. Invented Selfies. Do what I loves: plants, biology, engineering, & teaching. Lives for innovation, creativity, and fun. 
Pennsylvania born-and-raised, I graduated first in my class--the first graduating PSU Schreyers class---in 1984 in Chemical Engineering, although I had initially enrolled in Biochemistry ironically to avoid pursuing graduate school. As it turns out, I love learning and teaching so I went on to graduate school and never looked back. Though technically receiving my Ph.D. at Purdue in Chemical Engineering, I completed my work on scale-up of (opium) poppy physically within its Horticulture Department. I came back to Penn State (if you check the dates closely, I even graduated two graduates students while I was setting up my lab and writing my own Ph.D. dissertation). My initial tenure-track position was a dual teaching position and directorship, where I oversaw the now-defunct Biotech Institute or what-is-now the $20M+ Shared Fermentation Facility. This included spending ~5 years assisting with industrial projects, including hosting workshops for more than a decade that served over 1,000 industrial participants. In that time, I scaled-up...anything and everything, where I now feel comfortable tackling growth of nearly any organism. Noting that CurtisLab has easily worked with more than 50 organisms to date, here are some examples:
  • yeast;
  • CHO; 
  • HeLa;
  • parasitic nematodes; 
  • edible, mycorrhizal, and entomopathogenic fungi; 
  • plants;
  • microalgae and cyanobacteria;
  • syngas-fermenting, autotrophic, and even magnetotactic bacteria;
Thus, rather than narrowing my work to one (myopic) field of expertise, this experience enabled me to leapfrog into multiple disciplines i.e. Plant Science and Biomedical Engineering---in which I am an Adjunct Professor of both---under the larger umbrella of bioreactor design. CurtisLab's research focuses on biofuels, plant propagation, and protein expression and I am a proponent of undergraduate research, where I believe that it is the true validation of a research university. Over the years, 
  • Over (400) undergraduates have conducted research in my lab;
  • (47) honors theses have been written
  • (6) winners of National undergraduate research awards
  • At least a dozen conference research poster competitions
  • (5) recipient of NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)
  • PI/co-PI of NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) for 5 years
  • (6) students completed summer internship via Brazilian Scientific Mobility Program (BSMP)
  • Graduates that have gone onto faculty positions, veterinary school, medical school, and successful careers in industry (Merck, Astra Zeneca, Regeneron, DOW Agrosciences)
In the 1990s, I also helped to put together the Bioprocess Engineering option with Arthur Humphrey and have taught over 1,000 undergraduates aspects of biochemical/biomolecular engineering.

Think that undergraduate research is the true validation of a research university ... and have had about 400 undergraduates conduct research in my lab over the years. They have won awards at about a dozen undergraduate research competitions. 
I am a happily-married father of four (all graduated or currently enrolled at PSU). In my spare time, I (apparently) try to kill himself rock-climbing, getting run over by PSU police on my bike (true story), hiking, climbing trees I shouldn’t (in the name of arboreal taxonomy of course!), rocking on guitar, playing frisbee, and things I can’t admit without self-incrimination.


Awards & Honors:
 2015     Lawrence J. Perez Memorial Student Advocate Award
 2015 AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) Outstanding Student Adviser Award
 2003   Schreyers Honors College Outstanding Advisor Award
 1999-2001 Monsanto Scientific Advisory Board
 1999    LevTec Science Advisory Board    
 1998-2008College of Engineering Faculty Senate Council Representative 
 1993-1998 National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award
 1995 Invitational Fellowship, Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, June-August
 1993 College of Engineering Outstanding Advising Award
 1990-1991 Professor of the Year
 1984     The President's Senior Award
 1982 The President's Sophomore Award
 1981 The President's Freshman Award