Assistant Professor Ganesh Sriram
About Dr. Sriram
Ph.D., Iowa State University, 2004
Before joining the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Dr. Sriram conducted research in both ChBE and human genetics at UCLA.
Dr. Sriram's research is in two related areas: systems biology and metabolic engineering. Systems biology is the holistic, quantitative analysis of large-scale biological data sets toward improved understanding, prediction, and control of how a cell or organism behaves. Metabolic engineering is the rational modification of organisms for improvement of their cellular properties. These are interdisciplinary fields with immense potential for chemical engineers to uniquely apply their expertise, and also very rapidly growing research areas.
Dr. Sriram focuses on analyzing and engineering metabolic and gene regulatory pathways of plants and mammalian cells. Metabolic pathways are "traffic maps" of carbon and other materials within cells, and gene regulatory pathways are networks showing how this traffic is controlled by the cell. Such analysis provides insights into bottlenecks existing in the cell, and how these can be improved by engineering the pathways. Dr. Sriram's research utilizes experimental techniques such as stable isotope labeling, NMR, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, cDNA microarray analysis, and several computational techniques for metabolic flux/pathway analysis and deduction of gene regulatory networks.
Studying plants in this way is highly important in today's economy because plants are sources of food, biofuel, and specialty chemicals such as pharmaceuticals. Mammalian tissue cultures provide a means to understand human genetic diseases in greater detail, especially how biological networks are perturbed due to the lack of a gene or genes.
Q&A with Dr. Sriram
What impact could your work have on society or consumers?
My work on systems biology and the metabolic engineering of plants and mammalian cells could have a significant effect on food sources, fuel supplies, and health.
Plants produce several commodities indispensable to an economy. In today's economy, the most important of these are food and fuel, and plants make these by using only carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight as raw materials—they possess sophisticated metabolic and regulatory networks. The more we learn about these, the better we will be able to develop engineering strategies for increasing plant productivity.
Mammalian tissue cultures provide a platform to investigate human diseases, facilitating the identification of disturbances in biological networks that manifest in a given disease. This can lead to a better understanding of diseases and enable improved therapies and treatments.
What attracted you to the Clark School?
The Clark School is known for excellence in engineering research and education. It offers me great collaborative opportunities (both within and outside the school), it has an excellent location near prominent national labs and the nation's capital, and most importantly, it has wonderful people.
Why should young engineers consider chemical and biomolecular engineering for their field of study?
Today, chemical and biomolecular engineering has very broad applications ranging from petrochemical refining to nanotechnology, biotechnology, and polymers. The field combines mathematics, physics, chemistry (and increasingly, biology) to solve problems of great significance to today's economy, including those that involve energy, advanced materials, and food. It is well known that ChBE graduates are offered the highest starting salaries in the industry. These reasons make ChBE one of the most attractive engineering majors.
Why is the Clark School a good place for students (graduate or undergraduate) to study chemical and biomolecular engineering?
The Clark School is a highly ranked engineering school. Its outstanding and diverse community of faculty and students contributes to cutting-edge research in many important areas. Coupled with its advantageous location near Washington, D.C., with many chemical/biotech industries and national labs in the vicinity, it is a very desirable place to study ChBE.