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Penn biointerface researcher and entrepreneur Tagbo Niepa to join Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

PITTSBURGH (March 20, 2017) … Further strengthening its focus on interdisciplinary research and entrepreneurship, the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has hired Tagbo H.R. Niepa, PhD as assistant professor. Dr. Niepa, currently the Postdoctoral Fellow for Academic Diversity at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with Professors Daeyeon Lee and Kathleen Stebe, will join Pitt in July 2017.

“Tagbo’s expertise in biofilms, microfluidics and interfacial science is an outstanding addition to our department,” said Steven R. Little, PhD, Department Chair and William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “He is young researcher who is gaining a national reputation for his bacterial research, and his experience as an entrepreneur with his own successful startup will be a tremendous asset and inspiration to our students.”

“Many lifesaving medical innovations have emerged from the University of Pittsburgh,” added Dr. Niepa. “I am very excited to join Pitt’s Department Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. The multidisciplinary environment at Pitt is conducive for me to make unique contributions to diverse fields ranging from biomedical, to food and environmental sciences.

"I envision developing microbial-based methods of oil recovery, and technologies having applications for biotechnology and personalized therapeutics. My hope is to share my vision of entrepreneurship as an alternative approach to disseminating research results with students as they explore opportunities outside of academia or industry.”

Dr. Niepa currently focuses on interfacial phenomena associated with bacterial films and is developing artificial microniches to model microbiome dynamics as well as microbial communities relevant to antibiotic discovery. His research also seeks to understand how beneficial microbes could be used to better clean the environment after an oil spill and how pathogens could be prevented from causing disease.

He earned an associate degree in food science at the Food Industry College (Ivory Coast) and worked at the Pasteur Institute as a research associate, before transferring to University of Dortmund (Germany) to study bioengineering. He later earned a BS in biomedical engineering and PhD in chemical engineering from Syracuse University. His doctoral research on the electrochemical control of bacterial persister cells revealed new means to control the electrophysiology of highly drug-tolerant bacterial cells and sensitize pathogenic persister and biofilm cells to antibiotics. His technology was tested successfully for safety on human cells and for efficacy in curing a rabbit model of sinusitis, and was awarded two U.S. patents and recognized by Syracuse University with the All-University Doctoral Prize.

Dr. Niepa is a co-founder of Helios Innovative Technologies Inc. (now PurpleSun Inc.), a medical device company that develops automated sterilization systems to fight bacterial cross-contamination.

About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and our industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Our commitment to the future of the chemical process industry drives the development of educational and research programs. The Department has a tradition of excellence in education and research, evidenced by recent national awards including numerous NSF CAREER Awards (including three in Q1 2017), a Beckman Young Investigator Award, an NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and the DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award, among others. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design.

The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. chemical engineering departments for federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million. The vibrant research culture within the Department includes active collaboration with the adjacent University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Center for Simulation and Modeling, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering and the U.S. DOE-affiliated Institute for Advanced Energy Solutions. 


Contact: Paul Kovach