Andre Palmer, PhD '98

Growing up in Trinidad, Andre Palmer, PhD ’98, liked chemistry and math. Chemical engineering was a natural career choice for Palmer, who in August 2015 was named chair of the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The Ohio State University’s College of Engineering.

Beyond his teaching prowess (he received the engineering school’s Harrison Faculty Award for Excellence in Engineering Education in 2012), Palmer has made a name for himself developing novel hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers with applications in transfusion medicine and tissue engineering.

“The materials I’m making, such as artificial red blood cells and artificial plasma, are to be used when blood is not available,” Palmer says. “So if there is a natural disaster, war or a terrorist attack, and you exhaust your current blood supply, these materials are supposed to give the patient enough time to get a proper blood transfusion.” They also could be used for patients whose religious beliefs prohibit acceptance of blood transfusions. Palmer also works on targeted drug delivery systems to monocytes and macrophages.

In conducting research, Palmer says he calls on lessons learned at Johns Hopkins in the lab of Denis Wirtz, now vice provost for research: “What Hopkins gave me was a framework for systematically attacking research problems, and also seeing the importance of translational opportunities for research – trying to translate fundamental research into actual therapies for patients.” The small number of core courses required for the program made it possible to jump quickly into research, he says, and he liked the ability to collaborate with faculty at the medical campus and other departments.

After earning his doctorate, and completing postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins, Palmer joined the faculty at Howard University as assistant professor of chemistry. In 2001, he moved to the University of Notre Dame to become assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, a post he held for five years. He relocated to Ohio State in 2006 to become associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, was promoted to full professor in 2012, and served as interim department chair in 2014-2015.

Palmer received the National Science Foundation Career Award in 2001. He currently serves on the International Scientific Advisory Committee on Blood Substitutes and is a member of the Academic Advisory board for Howard University’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

“What interests me is working on problems and knowing that if my research is successful, it could have a big impact on a patient’s quality of life,” Palmer says. “I also love to teach – I’d like to pass on those problem-solving approaches to my students who do research. That’s what gets me motivated every day.”