Kristala L. Jones Prather

Kristala L. Jones Prather is an Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, and Head, Prather Research Group, at MIT. The AIChE Foundation caught up with Kristala to discuss her profession, research, and involvement in AIChE.

AIChE Foundation: What is it about chemical engineering that you’re most passionate about?

Kristala L. Jones Prather: Chemical engineering is an incredibly diverse field that enables practitioners with multiple objectives, interests and backgrounds to communicate and collaborate from a common intellectual foundation. Our global society is faced with significant challenges, and many of them can be addressed by applying and advancing the fundamentals of chemical engineering. It is an exciting time to be a chemical engineer!

“We need the most creative minds available to solve global problems.”

AIChE: What are you working on that may most positively impact society or the future?

KLJP: My research group is focused on the design and assembly of engineered microorganisms for the synthesis of small molecules. These “microbial chemical factories” have the potential to provide access to important chemicals and materials from renewable, sustainable feedstocks. Our hope is that our microbes will provide chemical compounds with equivalent functionality but with reduced environmental impact, while also providing economic benefits.

AIChE: How has your relationship with AIChE helped you to fulfill your professional and personal goals?

KLJP: I have been a member of AIChE since I was a graduate student. At that time, it was an incredible opportunity to develop my communication skills and to begin to build a network. Since I joined the faculty of MIT in 2004, I have been a regular attendee at the annual meeting. It has provided many opportunities to expand my professional network, and, importantly for me, has enabled me to provide mentoring to younger engineers in industry and academia.

AIChE: Which of the five transformative priorities resonates most with you and why?

KLJP: The priority of “Attracting and Retaining the Best and the Brightest” resonates most strongly with me. As our societal challenges increase, it is critical that our profession attract the most talented individuals—and that we reach beyond traditional pools to identify this talent pool. We need the most creative minds available to solve global problems.