Inside Rensselaer
* Shekhar Garde
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Garde Named Head of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Professor Shekhar Garde, a chaired professor in the School of Engineering, has been named new head of the Howard. P. Isermann Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Garde began his new post on Oct. 15.

Garde, whose research interests include fundamental understanding of biological and nanoscopic systems using molecular theory, modeling, and simulation, is among the first wave of researchers to work with and harness the power of Rensselaer’s new 100-teraflop supercomputing center.

“Professor Garde is an outstanding engineer and a natural leader for the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering,” said Alan Cramb, dean of engineering. “Shekhar has strong support from the faculty members in his department and I am sure we will see the department continue to climb in the rankings over the next five years.”

Garde received his bachelor’s degree in 1992 from the University of Bombay, and earned his doctorate in chemical engineering in 1997 from the University of Delaware. He joined Rensselaer’s School of Engineering in 1999, following a prestigious two-year Director’s Fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In 2006, Garde was named the Elaine S. and Jack S. Parker Career Development Chaired Professor in Engineering. Through his affiliations with Rensselaer’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and the Nanoscale Science & Engineering Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures at Rensselaer funded by the National Science Foundation, he collaborates with researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines to further the fundamental understanding of molecular-scale processes that lie at the foundation of bio and nanotechnologies.

Over the past decade, Garde has written and published more than 50 academic papers on research funded by several collaborative grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund. He is also no stranger to awards and honors. In 2001, Garde won the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, which the NSF designates as the “highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.”

In 2001, Garde was inducted into Rensselaer’s Sigma-Xi honors society. Two years later, he received Rensselaer’s School of Engineering Excellence in Research Award, and then in 2004 he won the Rensselaer Faculty Early Career Award.

Garde, along with Professors Linda Schadler and Richard Siegel in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is a driving force behind Rensselaer’s NSF-funded Molecularium project, which aims to excite and energize children to think and learn more about the atoms and molecules that make up our world. The Molecularium animated film currently being distributed nationwide combines elements of Garde’s research using molecular dynamics simulations with state-of-the-art computer-generated animation to explore the states of matter — solid, liquid, and gas — and to investigate the inner workings of a living cell.

Garde’s core research focuses on understanding and modeling how biological molecules self-assemble in water-based solutions. Water is essential to all of life’s processes, he says, and understanding how water molecules organize themselves near surfaces of proteins, DNA, or other biomolecules, and how that organization leads to interactions between those molecules leading to assembly and hierarchical organization, is a grand challenge. Garde’s research group is developing theoretical methods and state-of-the-art computer simulation and modeling tools aimed at addressing this grand challenge.

As a whole, the faculty in Rensselaer’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering undertake a spectrum of diverse research topics including advanced materials, bioseparations, biomedical and biochemical engineering, thermodynamics and transport phenomena at the micro and nanoscale, polymers, and other fields at the intersection of basic science, engineering, and technology.

Garde says that he is tremendously excited about the future of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer. The department recently expanded its ranks by hiring three top-notch assistant professors — Peter Tessier, who started in August, along with Pankaj Karande and Cynthia Collins, who will begin in early 2008. Several key faculty members have recently won major national and international awards, and other professors are leading large, interdisciplinary research teams and proposals, he says.

“We will continue to increase the intellectual capital of the department by adding brilliant new faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates,” Garde says. “Our national ranking is consistently moving up, and our goal is to be listed among the top 20 chemical and biological engineering programs in the nation in the next few years.”

For more information on Rensselaer’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, go to www.eng.rpi.edu/chme.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 1, Number 6, October 25, 2007
©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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