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Kristala Prather Granted Tenure

Kristala Jones Prather, the Theodore T. Miller Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, has been awarded permanent tenure.

“Kristala is an innovative researcher and dedicated teacher. She continually strives to bring out the best in those around her, be they students, researchers, or fellow faculty members,” said Klavs F. Jensen, Warren K. Lewis Professor of Chemical Engineering and head of the MIT Chemical Engineering Department, “Kristala is an important part of our Department’s future.”

Prather is an investigator in the multi-institutional Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC) funded by the National Science Foundation (USA).

She received an SB degree from MIT in 1994 and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley (1999), and worked four years in BioProcess Research and Development at the Merck Research Labs (Rahway, N.J.).She is the recipient of a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award (2004), an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2005), a Technology Review "TR35" Young Innovator Award (2007), a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2010), and the Biochemical Engineering Journal Young Investigator Award (2011). Additional honors include selection as the Van Ness Lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012) and a Young Scientist of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions (2012). Prather has been recognized for excellence in teaching with the C. Michael Mohr Outstanding Faculty Award for Undergraduate Teaching in the Dept. of Chemical Engineering (2006) and the MIT School of Engineering Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching (2010).

Prather is an important asset to organizations across the campus. For example, she has been a long-time collaborator of the MIT Portugal Program (MPP) – an international collaboration between MIT, the Portuguese government and industry. Prather is a faculty member of the MPP’s Bioengineering focus area, and under this program, she participates in research projects in collaboration with Portuguese Faculty at Instituto Superior Técnico (Lisboa, Portugal) in the development and test of E. coli strains specifically adapted to meet the upstream and downstream processing challenges associated with large scale production of plasmid vectors. She is also a supervisor of several PhD Bioengineering MPP PhD candidates that have been developing part of their research project at her MIT laboratory.

Prather has also served as a member of the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs' advisory board since November 2009. Through a SynBERC grant, she secured the funding to establish the SEED Academy Synthetic Biology course, for which she serves as the faculty advisor. About 120 high school students from Boston, Cambridge and Lawrence have been exposed to synthetic biology because of this course.

Prather’s research interests are centered on the design and assembly of recombinant microorganisms for the production of small molecules, with additional efforts in novel bioprocess design approaches.  Research combines the traditions of metabolic engineering with the practices of biocatalysis to expand and optimize the biosynthetic capacity of microbial systems.  More simply, the Prather Lab is harnessing the synthetic power of biology to build microbial chemical factories.  A particular focus is the elucidation of design principles for the production of unnatural organic compounds with engineered control of metabolic flux within the framework of the burgeoning field of synthetic biology.

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