Hal Alper

Engineering biology to develop “a taste for waste”


The valorization and remediation of waste (whether anthropogenic, environmental, or industrial) using biology presents itself as a viable route for both environmental stewardship and sustainable industrial bioproduction. This approach is becoming more feasible thanks to advances in metabolic strain engineering, synthetic biology, and machine learning. This talk will cover examples of how microbial systems and enzyme can achieve the goal of sustainable chemical production and waste valorization by rewiring biology to develop “a taste for waste”. Highlighted examples include plastic waste depolymerization, unconventional carbon utilization, and feedstock expansions.

Hal Alper


Dr. Hal Alper is the Kenneth A. Kobe Professor in Chemical Engineering and Executive Director of the Center for Biomedical Research Support at The University of Texas at Austin.  He earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from The University of Maryland, College Park in 2002, Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006, and was a postdoctoral research associate at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research from 2006-2008, and at Shire Human Genetic Therapies from 2007-2008.  His research focuses on applying and extending the approaches of synthetic biology, systems biology, and protein engineering.  Recent research efforts include development enzymes and microbial processes for the depolymerization and valorization of plastic waste and other waste carbon sources. Dr. Alper has published over 150 articles and 8 book chapters. Dr. Alper is the recipient of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award (2008), Texas Exes Teaching Award (2009), DuPont Young Investigator Award (2010), Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2011), UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award (2012), Biotechnology and Bioengineering Daniel I.C. Wang Award (2013), Jay Bailey Young Investigator Award (2014), Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2014), Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology Young Investigator Award (2015), ACS BIOT Young Investigator Award (2016), UT-Austin Emerging Inventor of the Year Award (2016) and AIChE Allan P. Colburn Award (2018), Biochemical Engineering Journal Young Investigator Award (2019), and Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award in Engineering (2019). He was elected as a Fellow to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in 2018 and to the National Academy of Inventors in 2019.