Seminar- Engineered Living Materials: Integrating Synthetic Biology, Materials Science, and Civil Engineering

Mason 1133
Monday, November 18, 2019 - 14:00


Dr. Wil V. Srubar III
Assistant Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering
University of Colorado Boulder

Recent advances in metabolic engineering have enabled autonomous, high-fidelity biomanufacturing of useful chemical, mineral, and polymer building blocks that can be leveraged in the design and fabrication of construction materials and living architectures at the human scale. This presentation will highlight research that integrates the fields of synthetic biology, microbiology, materials science, and structural engineering to design and fabricate biomimetic and living materials for the built environment. In one study, we demonstrate for the first time that calcium carbonate (CaCO3) nanoparticles can be tailored by modulating the precipitation kinetics of ureolytic microorganisms via genetic engineering. In another study, we take inspiration from antifreeze proteins to design and fabricate biomimetic ice-binding molecules that prevent freeze-thaw damage in concrete without the use of air-entraining admixtures. We also show that engineered microorganisms can be leveraged in the design of hybrid living building materials that display both biological (i.e., living, regenerative self-healing) and structural (i.e., load-bearing) function. Finally, this talk will highlight the challenges that emerge working across length scales and disciplines, as well as the grand opportunity that exists for synthetic biologists and materials engineers to work together to create never-before-imagined material solutions for critical societal problems in energy, water, and the built environment. 


Dr. Wil V. Srubar III is an Assistant Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he leads the Living Materials Laboratory. Dr. Srubar holds a PhD from Stanford University, as well as BS and MS degrees from Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin, respectively. His research integrates synthetic biology, polymer science, and cement chemistry to create biomimetic and living material technologies for civil and military applications. His academic research is supported by the National Science Foundation, ARPA-E, and DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. In addition, Dr. Srubar also serves as the technical director of cement and concrete research at Katerra, and he is a co-founder and current co-chairman of the Embodied Carbon Network.