Profile: Engineering Microbial Chemical Factories

February
,
2018
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Kristala Jones Prather, the Arthur D. Little Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is developing promising strategies for designing and assembling new biosynthetic pathways in engineered microbes.

She was named an MIT Technology Review Young Innovator in 2007, and she received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2010 and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award in 2017. Her work ethic is evidenced by the ambitious research initiatives ongoing in her lab, her group’s numerous publications, and her devotion to her students. “As an undergraduate alumna of my institution, I feel a particular duty to engage with and be responsive to students, particularly women and students of color, who are looking for guidance,” she says. “Everyone is familiar with the classroom teaching and laboratory research aspects of a professor’s life, but we often underestimate the role that professors play as citizens of and role models within the university community.”

Prather attended high school in Longview, TX, and, surprisingly, was encouraged to pursue chemical engineering by her world history teacher. The advice and guidance she received in high...

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