Chicago Future Manufacturing Seminar Series | Part 3


Virtual Event



About the Event

MxD, University of Chicago, and our partner institutions are proud to introduce the Chicago Future Manufacturing Seminar Series. This series will feature invited speakers to discuss cutting-edge research on future manufacturing (e.g., ecomanufacturing and cybermanufacturing) —working in tandem through the NSF-funded MADE-PUBLIC project to establish an intelligent, scalable, and democratized manufacturing paradigm that allows for distributed printing of low-cost, biodegradable, and recyclable electronic devices using locally identifiable resources, such as bio-based materials derived from plants. These electronic devices are critical components in the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT). This series will not only further MxD’s mission of establishing Chicago as a future manufacturing hub, but it seeks to educate a diverse audience of students and the public on the future of sustainable manufacturing.

Event Description

Protein-Based Plastics as Next-Gen Renewable Materials: Challenges and Opportunities

This talk will present Dr. Helen Zha's latest work in the biomanufacturing of sustainable protein-based plastics. Nature provides extraordinary examples of high-performance polymers with properties often surpassing those of man-made plastics. Protein-based materials are particularly interesting because their palette of amino acid “monomers” and their precisely controlled sequence can give rise to complex properties based on the synergy of diverse intermolecular interactions. Furthermore, protein-based plastics are made from renewable resources and are entirely biodegradable.

Dr. Zha's research aims to develop new biotic and abiotic synthetic methods to produce silk-mimetic macromolecules with well-defined chemical structures and targeted material properties. These innovations have potential applications in environmental sustainability (e.g., biodegradable plastics for a circular economy) and in healthcare (e.g., materials for tissue engineering and drug release). Join this webinar to hear about the challenges and opportunities presented by this research.


4:00pm - 4:10pm – MxD & MADE-PUBLIC Intro
4:10pm - 4:45pm – Protein-Based Plastics as Next-Gen Renewable Materials
4:45pm - 5:00pm – Q&A w/ Dr. Zha

Featured Speakers:

Dr. Helen Zha
Title: Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, RPI
Bio: Dr. Helen Zha received her B.Sc. (2007) from MIT and her Ph.D. (2013) from Northwestern University in Materials Science & Engineering. After pursuing postdoctoral research at Eindhoven University of Technology and UC Berkeley, Helen started as a tenure-track assistant professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering in 2018. Helen has received an NSF CAREER Award, published 22 peer-reviewed journal articles, and been awarded 2 patents to date, and currently sits on the Advisory Board of Materials Innovation Initiative, a non-profit organization aiming to fast-track the development of next-gen sustainable materials for the consumer goods industry.