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Biological Engineering

Engineering Biological Systems for Medicine and Better Health

Chemical Engineering principles provide a toolbox ideal for engineering medical tools and biochemical processes to improve medical treatment and quality of life. This toolbox is extremely well suited for the quantitative analysis and design of biological systems. For example, kinetics of biological reactions, mass transfer of biological molecules through tissues, fluid dynamics of biological fluids such as blood, and interfacial phenomena at the interface between biomaterials and cells are all topics central to field of Chemical Engineering. In the Northeastern University Chemical Engineering Department, our bioengineering research spans several cutting-edge research areas:

Metabolic Engineering

Metabolic engineering embodies the principles, framework, and methodologies for understanding and manipulating the reaction networks within the cell for targeted and improved chemical transformations. At Northeastern, metabolic engineering are applied to improving the production of important compounds from plants or plant cell cultures. Our main research focus is the production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus. The overall vision of our research is to meet the needs and demands of important and cost-prohibitive plant-derived pharmaceuticals and ultimately develop an economically viable process using plant cell culture.

Drug Delivery Systems

Drug delivery technologies are essential to effective therapy as they can control the rate and concentration at which drugs reach target sites in the body. We are conducting mechanistic studies and developing computational models to understand and predict drug transport in the biological drug delivery environment.


Technologies from the semiconductor industry have allowed the development of new tools in recent years. Biological micro-electromechanical systems (BioMEMS) are devices that use the advantage of small size to tackle problems such as the isolation of pure subpopulations of cells, analysis and biochemistry of cells at the single-cell level, and nanoscale perturbation of cells and other biological entities.


Research in this area is focused on the synthesis and characterization of new materials for various biological applications such as passivation coatings on prosthetic devices, “intelligent” materials that respond to biological stimuli, and biodegradable polymers used in drug delivery applications. These efforts draw on the expertise available in the department in field of advanced materials.