Skip to main content

Prof. Kelly Elected as AIChE Fellow

Robert Kelly, the Alcoa Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has been elected as an AIChE Fellow. Candidates are nominated by their peers with the primary criterion for election being significant professional accomplishment or service to the profession.  In addition, the candidate must have significant chemical engineering experience, normally 25 years, and be a Senior Member of the society.

Prof. Kelly has had a very distinguished career as a faculty member at NC State.  Although his first academic position was at John Hopkins, he was recruited back to State, where he obtained a Ph.D. under the tutelage of Prof. Ron Rousseau, as Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1992.  He has served as Director of the NC State Molecular Biotechnology Training Program and the Director of the NC State Biotechnology Program, both since 2000.  He has received many honors, including the ACS Marvin Johnson Award for Biochemical Technology, the AIChE Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Division Award, the American Society for Microbiology DuPont Biosciences Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Extremophiles, and the Amgen Award in Biochemical and Molecular Engineering.  In 2021, he was awarded the Holladay Medal, the highest academic honor bestowed on a faculty member by NC State. Kelly also served as Editor of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology from 2012-2022.

Prof. Kelly’s research is at the interface between biology and engineering, with a focus on understanding the physiology, biochemistry, and bioenergetics of microorganisms from extreme thermal environments, such as undersea volcanoes and continental hot springs.  One goal is to isolate and understand their thermostable enzymes for potential use as biocatalysts at high temperatures.  In addition, his work has examined the novel features of microbial physiology and genetics at elevated temperatures, heavy metal biotransformations, the search for life on other solar bodies (astrobiology), and metabolic engineering aimed at the production of bio-based fuels and chemicals from native and transgenic lignocellulose and through CO2 fixation powered by sulfur oxidation. 

Prof. Kelly’s impact at NC State has been significant. As Prof. Simon Simon, Head of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering noted, “Prof. Kelly is an exemplary faculty member and a stellar researcher.  He has graduated over 50 PhD students in his career, has been recognized as an outstanding advisor, teacher, and administrator, and performs creative and impactful research.  It is only fitting that he be recognized as a Fellow of the AIChE.”