Contributions of Chemical Engineering in Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 24, 2020, a sudden “Stay at Home" order from the Governor of Indiana awakened Notre Dame students, faculty, and staff to the unprecedented risk presented to our local community by the SARS Cov-2 virus. Students were told not to return from spring break and the very foundations of the University education were shaken. As faculty pivoted to teaching with still-evolving remote technology, many simultaneously set their sights on tackling this challenge to get our students back into our dorms and classrooms and restart our World-class research programs. In the months that followed, chemical engineers at Notre Dame set to work establishing protocols to safely conduct classroom learning, sports practices, music rehearsals, laboratory research, and food distribution at dining halls. Experimental and computational work established the effectiveness of various types of face coverings, as well as the acceptable density of classrooms, offices, labs, and dorms to limit exposure and spread of the virus. At the same time, chemical engineers working in the academy and throughout various pharmaceutical companies were rushing to implement and scale manufacturing processes for hundreds of millions of vaccine doses — well before the final formulations had been tested and approved. Likewise, others were adapting existing processes to manufacture large amounts of monoclonal antibody treatments. This talk will outline various details of these events, how the unique training and intuition that comes with a chemical engineering education placed us in a central role in responding to this global crisis, including some personal recollections.

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Matthew J. Webber Mark J. McCready

Professors of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

College of Engineering

About the Lecturer

Matthew Webber is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, with a concurrent appointment in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. His research group is interested in applying supramolecular principles, leveraging defined and rationally designed non-covalent interactions, to improve biomaterial practice. He is specifically curious about the possibilities for high affinity interactions to overcome barriers in drug delivery. Prof. Webber received a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University. Subsequently, he was an NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellow at MIT. He was named by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers as one of the “35 under 35” young leaders shaping the field in 2017 and is a recipient of an NSF CAREER award in 2020.

Mark McCready is Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Engineering, and, previously, as Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. He received his B.ChE. degree from University of Delaware and Ph.D. degree from University of Illinois. His research interests include multiphase fluid flows in confined geometries, CO2 absorption and reaction in multiphase systems, micro fuel cell technologies and fundamentals of phase change processes. At the University of Notre Dame, Dr. McCready has received a number of teaching awards, including Teacher of the Year Award in the College of Engineering and Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He is a co-recipient of this year’s Faculty Award in recognition for his contribution to help university safely reopen research labs, offices and classrooms during the pandemic by applying his research expertise in fluid dynamics to model and calculate viral droplet emission and transmission.

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