Chemical engineering professor gets grant to pursue virus research

Virus researcher Caryn Heldt at Michigan Technological University recently got a grant award to pursue her research further.
 
Heldt is a professor of chemical engineering at Tech who received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. The awards are given to young faculty who are both effective teachers and researchers.
 
She'll use the funding to continue research on ways to remove viruses from water and biotherapeutic drugs; for instance, purifying viruses for vaccine production. If that sounds unlikely for a chemical engineering researcher, the link lies on the surface of the viruses themselves. Heldt studies the chemistry of those surfaces in order to develop removal techniques.
 
With the award, $525,000 over five years to support her work and education in her bioseparations lab, Heldt will focus on finding ways to remove viruses that don't involve expensive nanofiltration processes. She has researched osmolytes, chemicals that affect osmosis and can cause viruses to clump together in more easily filterable groups. Next up is research on the ways virus surfaces repel water, which could lead to new removal techniques.
 
Heldt works with both Michigan Technological University students and with students from Wayne County Community College in Detroit, where she also collaborates with other researchers in chemistry and ecology, offering students hands-on research using samples from the Detroit River for various projects.
 
Writer: Kim Eggleston
Source: Michigan Technological University
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