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Alum Dr. Caryn Heldt Receives Endowed Chair in Bioengineering

Dr. Caryn HeldtDr. Caryn L. Heldt (Ph.D. ’08), an associate professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech University, is the recipient of the James and Lorna Mack Endowed Chair in Bioengineering. A graduate of Dr. Carbonell’s research group, Caryn has been on the MTU faculty since 2010 and is recognized both for her teaching and her research.

“Dr. Heldt cares deeply that her students learn and grow,” says. S. Komar Kawatra, chair of chemical engineering. “This caring is highlighted in her success in training students for research careers. Her high standards, mentoring abilities, industrial experience, biomanufacturing knowledge and instructional innovations benefit all chemical engineering students.”

Dr. Kawatra adds, “I talk to every senior in the chemical engineering department, and they all say wonderful things about her teaching capabilities”

In her research, Heldt uses surface chemistry to remove and/or purify pathogens and toxins. Her goal is to reduce disease burden worldwide. Heldt also develops point-of-care devices to detect pathogens and toxins quickly and inexpensively.

With a prestigious 2015 NSF CAREER Award, Dr. Heldt is developing new virus removal techniques. One research area she’s exploring is how virus surfaces repel water and how that hydrophobic tendency could impact virus removal. She has integrated that research into the Michigan College and University Partnership/Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (MICUP/MI–LSAMP), offering summer research internships to low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority community college students.

“I am so honored that the selection committee and James Mack thought that the work of my lab was worthy of this distinction,” says Heldt. “This endowment is a great opportunity to train more students in biotechnology research and to bring novel methods of pathogen purification, removal and detection to the market.”

She is currently on sabbatical in St. Louis, working with Pfizer on gene therapy process development. “This is enabling me to translate some of my virus purification work to real products that will impact patients,” she explains.

Heldt graduated from Michigan Tech in 2001 with a BS in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. She worked for BASF Corporation for two years before joining the Carbonell Lab, where she earned her PhD in 2008. She completed postdoctoral research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before joining the faculty at Michigan Tech.

Congratulations Dr. Heldt, for your outstanding accomplishments and this well-deserved honor!