Meet Dr. Curtis (written by students)

Principle Investigator & Professor of Chemical Engineering

Pennsylvanian thoroughbred.

Eternal college kid ; always has a frizbee on hand


Invented (film based) Selfies.

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 Honors Class [before became Schreyer's ]) 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 started advising 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

  • Mamalian cells: CHO, HeLa

  • parasitic nematodes

  • mycorrhizal fungi (for improved potting soil)

  • Entomopathogenic fungi (to kill bed bugs)

  • plants ... yam, tomato, tobacco, Azidiractica indica (neem tree), Douglas fir, Loblolly pine, sweet potato, regular potato, cabbage, .....

  • microalgae (Botryococcus) and cyanobacteria

  • syngas-fermenting, autotrophic (Rhodobacter), 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.

How to get in touch?


Phone: 814.863.4805

Fax: 814.865.7846

Where is Dr. Curtis' Office?

409 Chemical and Biological Engineering Building (CBEB)

University Park, PA 16802