Innovative Department of Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering Created

UM News, 05-07-2021

The University of Miami College of Engineering has created a Department of Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering (CEME) to meet new aspirations and address challenging issues.


The University of Miami College of Engineering has announced the formation of a new academic department; the Department of Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering (CEME); which will house aerosol science and technology, environmental engineering, synthetic biology and materials synthesis programs.

Throughout its more than 70-year history, the College of Engineering has changed, adding new departments during that time. Currently, the College is comprised of five departments – Biomedical Engineering (BME); Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (CAE); Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE); Industrial Engineering (IEN); and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE). 

This new department blends and builds on the College’s widely recognized strengths in materials and environmental engineering, and addresses the notable absence of chemical engineering.

The new Dean of the College of Engineering, Pratim Biswas, a former chair of a chemical engineering department, was instrumental in laying out the vision of the new department in discussions with colleagues at the University of Miami. 

“The focal areas of the new department were a gap at the University of Miami, and the faculty in this new department will play a leading role in advancing the strategic initiatives of the College and assisting in advancing the University’s Roadmap to the New Century.” Biswas said. “It will provide an opportunity for students to participate in research and education, and will also assist the technology innovation happening in South Florida”.

Chemical engineering is a discipline influencing numerous areas of science and technology. In broad terms, chemical engineers conceive and design processes to produce, transform, and transport materials — beginning with experimentation in the laboratory followed by the implementation of the technology in full-scale production. More importantly, to meet new aspirations and address challenging issues, it will enable the College and the University to holistically address and work on challenging issues. 

“This is an important investment in our engineering capabilities, which will bolster interdisciplinary collaboration and strengthen the University’s ability to mobilize the technology revolution in the search for solutions to complex challenges ranging from pandemics to climate change,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk.

Overlap in expertise exists throughout the College’s departments and other University units in both chemical and materials engineering, and this expertise will be utilized in developing research and educational programs within CEME.

Anchored in the College of Engineering, the department will collaborate strongly with the Frost Institute of Chemical and Molecular Sciences, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, College of Arts & Sciences, as well as the Miller School of Medicine.

“The next era for the College is bright," said University of Miami Provost Jeffrey Duerk. "The new Department of Chemical, Environmental and Materials is poised to flourish as an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment for our students, our researchers, and our external partners. It leverages a unique time at UM where we are increasing emphasis in STEM, chemical and molecular science, data science and the emerging 'tech' migration to Miami. Our new department is poised to give students a distinct advantage.”

Consistent with the College’s departmental structure, the CEME department will have the following four major research clusters that support College-wide thrusts in health engineering, advanced materials, energy and environment, data sciences, sustainability and resilience, and space sciences: 

  • Aerosol Science and Technology: Aerosol science and technology is focused on understanding the formation, growth, transport and application of fine particulate matter systems. This group is focused on the characterization of fundamental aerosol formation and transformation processes to determine impacts on the environment, climate, and human health; and to utilize these processes to develop new materials to enable energy, environmental and medical technologies. The College of Engineering’s new Dean, Pratim Biswas, brings considerable expertise in aerosol science and engineering. Aerosol science in the context of atmospheric science and marine systems is an area of focus in the Rosenstiel School’s Department of Atmospheric Science, and in Nanomedicine and Public Health in the School of Medicine. Faculty will be jointly recruited by the College of Engineering and the Rosenstiel School to advance collaborative research and education initiatives at the graduate level in developing concentrations and tracks within the new CEME PhD program. 
  • Environmental Engineering: Considerable expertise in environmental engineering already exists within the CAE department; and the faculty transferring from CAE to CEME will bring with them such expertise. Professor Helena Solo-Gabriele's research focuses on evaluating the relationship between the environment and human health. Her research has spanned diverse areas including evaluating the impacts of chemicals in the environment and evaluating the impacts of microbial contaminants in coastal zones. Professor James Englehardt’s efforts focus on developing energy-positive systems to manage municipal water and wastewater systems. Professor David Chin’s research interests are in the areas of water-quality control in natural systems, environmental hydrology, environmental fluid mechanics, and design innovations in green infrastructure. Multiple synergies in environmental engineering currently exist at Rosenstiel School, and within other units of the University, in particular with the life and physical sciences.
  • Synthetic Biology: Synthetic biology involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by modifying them to have new abilities. Applications to energy, biomaterials synthesis and medicine will be explored. Other synergistic areas include systems biology and bioprocessing. The focus area in synthetic biology will draw from the expertise in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Rosenstiel School, and the Miller School of Medicine. The Frost Institute will also have significant connectivity to this cluster in the new CEME department.
  • Materials Synthesis: Faculty in this area will primarily focus on synthesis methodologies, guided by robust first principles. CEME faculty will collaborate with faculty in CAE on researching the fundamental properties of building materials, and with faculty of MAE on developing new materials for batteries and energy storage. Additionally, faculty with expertise in molecular design of materials will be recruited to augment existing expertise in CAE in molecular analysis of nanostructured materials. This focus area will also draw upon expertise available from some of the aerosol science and technology faculty, and those in biomaterial synthesis in BME, the College of Arts and Science, as well as expertise available in the Miller School of Medicine. The College of Engineering also plans to launch and offer degree programs in the area of Materials Science and Engineering.

Overall, the Department of Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering will provide high-quality undergraduate and graduate education in chemical, environmental, and materials engineering that prepares graduates for professional careers and a lifetime of learning; conduct high-quality research that advances the current body of knowledge, and engage in new discoveries to improve the quality of human life; and serve the engineering profession and society through active involvement in professional organizations and contribution of professional expertise.