Assistant Professor Wins the President Young Investigator Award from the Korean Institute of Chemical Engineers

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By Mary Ceron-Reyes

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Seok Hoon Hong

Seok Hoon Hong, assistant professor in Armour College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has been selected by the United States chapter of the Korean Institute of Chemical Engineers (KIChE) as the recipient of its 2020 President Young Investigator Award.

According to the KIChE website, this award recognizes Korean and Korean-American scientists and engineers who, while early in their research careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge in the general field of chemical engineering.

Hong’s research has had a significant impact on strategies for preventing infectious diseases, improving food safety, and enhancing water treatment technologies. His work has been published in top-tier, peer-reviewed journals including Nature Communications, Nature Biotechnology, and Nature Chemical Biology.

“I am profoundly honored to receive the prestigious KIChE award. I accept this award as encouragement for me to continually contribute to the chemical engineering community through excellent research and services, which will benefit the Illinois Tech community as well,” says Hong.

His research focuses on studying the roles of bacterial biofilms in infectious disease, antimicrobial resistance, and biofouling, which can cause structural or other functional deficiencies. These studies have been supported by the Wanger Institute for Sustainable Energy Research, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.

Hong is specifically interested in either eradicating harmful biofilms or engineering beneficial biofilms. “Bacterial biofilms are microbial aggregates that are immobile and fixed to a surface. That surface could be a shower curtain, your teeth, heat exchanger tubes, or a medical device implanted in a patient's body. They can cause serious infectious diseases and lead to biofouling and corrosion,” says Hong.

He adds, “My biofilm research will help to develop novel strategies to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria frequently found in biofilms,” noting that these efforts also will improve energy recovery and toxic chemical degradation during water treatment.

The U.S. chapter of the KIChE creates an educational forum among Korean and Korean-American chemical engineers across all sectors in the United States.

As a recipient of this award, Hong will present his research findings at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Annual Meeting scheduled to be held in November.

Hong is also a recipient of Illinois Tech’s 2020 Sigma Xi Excellence in Research Award for his exemplary achievements at the junior faculty level.