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Kevin Solomon, B.Eng.BioSci '06

(Chemical Engineering) | Developing the Microorganisms of the Future

A graduate of the inaugural Chemical & Bioengineering class has gone on to build an academic career developing sustainable microbial bioprocesses.

Kevin Solomon, who earned his Bachelor of Engineering and BioSciences in 2006 as part of McMaster’s first cohort of Bioengineering graduates, is now an assistant professor of Agricultural & Biological Engineering at Purdue University in Indiana.

His laboratory focuses on how fungi native to the guts of giraffes, rhinos, sheep and other animals break down complex polymers like lignocelluloses. While naturally serving to nourish the animal, Solomon is searching for ways that engineers might regulate that process to produce inexpensive sugars that can be efficiently “brewed” into valuable chemicals and medicines using microbes.

“I also manage a lab of postdocs, and PhD, masters, and undergraduate students interested in developing sustainable solutions with microbes,” says Solomon. “I set the research direction, acquire resources to support our work, develop collaborations with other labs, and mentor my lab personnel.”

As a professor, he teaches courses in Synthetic Biology and Systems Biology.

Solomon made his decision to follow an academic career path after working in an engineering physics lab during his first summer at McMaster.

“Before that, I thought research and PhDs were for really smart people -- aka Einsteins -- and definitely not me,” he says. “But even though I was a lowly undergrad with zero experience, I learned about grad school, how students can study to become experts in their field and contribute valuable scientific knowledge in their field to help solve real societal problems, and I was hooked.”

After McMaster, he headed to Cambridge’s MIT, where he earned his master’s (’08) and PhD (’12) in Chemical Engineering.

“I had tremendous support from my mentors, including Dr. Filipe, who convinced me to apply to some of the most competitive schools in the world for engineering PhDs,” says Solomon.

He urges students to find mentors to help guide them.

“Mentors will recognize your strengths and help you identify opportunities that will advance your career in untold ways,” he says. “While my mentors were primarily my professors at Mac, they can come from any part of your life.”