News & Features

CAEE Welcomes New Faculty Member Manish Kumar

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Nov. 26, 2018

Dr. Manish Kumar will join the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin as an associate professor in Fall 2019. 

He is currently an associate professor of Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. He is also affiliated with the university’s Materials Research Institute, the Institute for Natural Gas Research, and the Institutes of Energy and the Environment.

Kumar’s background combines industrial applied research as well as multidisciplinary academic research. His experience includes large water treatment and wastewater reuse projects; beneficial use of municipal and industrial wastewater; pilot scale membrane studies; development of novel bio-enabled and bio-inspired materials and processes; use of synthetic biology for environmental applications; membrane protein biophysics and structural biology; and the exciting new area of artificial water channels.

“We are very excited Dr. Kumar is joining our faculty,” said Department Chair Robert Gilbert. “He is a rising superstar in membrane processes and bioinspired membranes for wastewater treatment and water reuse. His addition puts us at the forefront of wastewater engineering in the 21st century.”

Kumar received his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology in Trichy, India in 1998. He later earned a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) in 2000. He launched his engineering career with NCS, Inc., working on arsenic treatment, and membrane water and wastewater treatment projects.

In 2001, Kumar joined the Applied Research Department of MWH Global (now Stantec Inc.), where he worked on a range of applied research projects including membrane water and wastewater treatment, and UV disinfection of wastewater.

He returned to UIUC in 2006 to continue his graduate studies under the guidance of Dr. Mark Clark and Dr. Julie Zilles. His Ph.D. research resulted in one of the first reports on biomimetic membranes for desalination.

After earning a doctoral degree, Kumar was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Thomas Walz at Harvard Medical School where he examined structure and function of the eye lens Aquaporin (AQP0) in lipids and block copolymers using cryo-electron microscopy. In 2011, he joined the faculty at Penn State as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

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Kumar's research involves biological inspiration and molecular design of highly selective and permeable water channels, their self-assembly, and translation to macroscale membrane.

His technical interests include studying and mimicking biological processes and materials at the molecular scale to describe biological phenomena and then develop materials and processes that bring the exquisite specificity and functionality of biological molecules and processes to engineering scales. He is currently focused on cell membrane components - lipids and membrane proteins - and ways to mimic their function in synthetic systems and environmental engineering applications.

Kumar also has extensive experience teaching undergraduate and graduate courses and will offer courses in environmental and water resources engineering at UT Austin.

“I am particularly enthused by the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering’s strategic vision concerning the nexus of cities, water and energy due to my own work and passion to contribute to work at this nexus,” said Kumar. “I look forward to contributing to the high performance, innovation-driven culture in Texas and at UT Austin.”