Prashant Kumta Named Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering
In recognition of his pioneering research, outstanding mentorship, and professional achievements, Prashant N. Kumta has been named Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering by the University of Pittsburgh. A Distinguished Professorship is the highest honor that the University of Pittsburgh confers upon faculty members and honors extraordinary, internationally recognized scholarly attainment.
“I was absolutely delighted and thrilled to learn that I would be receiving this honor,” said Kumta. “I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of everyone who contributed, including my students, postdocs, research faculty, colleagues, and, of course, those who set this in motion by nominating me.”
Kumta was nominated for his research in energy storage and biomaterials, which combines engineering and biotechnology to create materials that have real-world impact.
An important portion of Kumta’s work is energy storage and conversion, particularly in developing new economical and scalable ways to create nanostructured materials for high-performance lithium-ion batteries. He began this work in the early 1990s, when Li-ion batteries were about to be commercialized by Sony using conventional approaches. This led to a strong partnership with Energizer, one of the top battery companies in the U.S. He also developed new approaches for creating non-oxide ceramics that can be used in supercapacitors and electrocatalysts for hydrogen fuel cells.
In the area of biomaterials and biotechnology, Kumta invented "NanoCaPs," which are nanostructured complexes made of calcium phosphate. These can deliver plasmid genes and growth factors to promote bone regeneration. He also developed new biodegradable metallic alloys for use in tracheal stents and bone fixation devices. His work in tissue engineering is also helping to create customized implants and tissue scaffolds for patients.
In addition to his groundbreaking research, Kumta has a long list of professional achievements to his name. Among them: he has served as a mentor to 45 pre-doctoral graduate students and 34 post-doctoral researchers; published more than 333 peer-reviewed articles; holds 42 patents; and secured $32.7 million in funding while at Pitt.
“Professor Kumta has had, and continues to have, a distinguished academic career. His rare expertise of working at the intersection of energy storage/conversion science and technology, biomaterials/biotechnology, and bioengineering places him in a class of his own,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Interim U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “I am delighted that Pitt has bestowed on him this well-deserved honor in recognition of his outstanding research, educational, mentoring, and professional service contributions, and I am proud to be his colleague.”
Kumta sees this recognition as one of three major milestones in his academic career. The first was receiving tenure at Carnegie Mellon University; the second was receiving an offer to come to the University of Pittsburgh as the Edward R. Weidlein Endowed Chair Professor; and the third is being recognized as a Distinguished Professor.
“This isn’t the end. I see this as a source of inspiration to continue to help the School in whatever way I can,” said Kumta. “I hope we can keep on climbing. I don’t look at this honor as an endpoint, but as an inspiration for more good things to come.”