Chundawat Receives Powe Award

Shishir Chundawat, assistant professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the School of Engineering, has won a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities. He is the third Rutgers faculty member to win this prestigious honor, instituted in 2008. It provides a $5,000 grant from ORAU, which the university will match.

This year Chundawat is one of 35 recipients of the Powe Award, which provides seed money for research by investing in junior faculty within the consortium of 121 universities.

Chundawat received his bachelor’s degree from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai and earned a doctorate in chemical engineering from Michigan State University in 2009. He later completed this postdoctoral research at Michigan State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014. His research focuses on using sustainable approaches to develop inexpensive processes for cellulosic bioenergy production, manufacturing more effective glycosylated biologic drug molecules, and engineering designer carbohydrate-based biomaterials. In particular, he is interested in developing a novel biochemical conversion process that can rapidly convert renewable cellulosic biomass, such as switchgrass or sugarcane bagasse, into desired fuels and chemicals. Read more about Chundawat’s research program here.

One reviewer commented: “The proposed research is of great interest to the burgeoning biofuels industry. The PI is proposing a relatively low cost way of destabilizing the crystal structure of cellulosic biomass, such that further processing using catalytic (or biocatalytic) reactions can be undertaken in a more facile manner.”

A junior faculty member at Rutgers has won the Powe Award for three straight years. Michal Szostak, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry in the Rutgers University–Newark College of Arts and Sciences won it in 2015. Malin Pinsky, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University-New Brunswick School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, won the award in 2014.