About the Director, Tonya Peeples


Tonya Peeples


Dr. Tonya Peeples is a Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at The University of Iowa. After graduating from Seventy-First Senior High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, she obtained her B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. After graduating from N. C. State in 1988, she pursued a doctoral degree from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD where she studied the bioenergetics of organisms from extreme environments with Professor Robert M. Kelly. After obtaining her Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering in 1994, she joined the lab of Mary E. Lidstrom in Environmental Engineering Science at the California Institute of Technology as a postdoctoral fellow. At Caltech, Prof. Peeples studied the genetics of particulate methane monooxygenase. In 1995 she joined the UI College of Engineering as an assistant professor. She was promoted to the rank of Professor with tenure in 2009.


The breadth of experiences as a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow enabled Dr. Peeples to develop a unique research program in extremophile, interfacial, and environmental biocatalysis. Biocatalysis is the use of living systems or the components of living systems to carry out chemical reactions. The Peeples research team studies environmentally and medically relevant bacteria and fungi as well as "extremophilic" microbes. Extremophiles may live at temperatures near boiling or under the high pressures of the deep sea, in the presence of high salt or in highly acidic or alkaline environments. The Peeples group uses knowledge of molecular biology, classical cellular physiology, and bioprocess design as tools of discovery. These research efforts have been well funded and have provided great learning opportunities for graduate and undergraduate chemical engineers, biologists, microbiologists and biochemists. Dr. Peeples has also enjoyed significant funding from private companies as well as federal agencies.

Professor Peeples has received several awards based on her research, teaching, and service including a General Electric Faculty for the Future award, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, a UI Collegiate Teaching Award, participation in the 2002 National Academy of Engineering's "Frontiers in Engineering" conference, the 2004 the Lloyd N. Ferguson Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, and most recently, the 2005 Distinguished Service Award from the Minority Affairs Committee of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. This most recent award was for sustained service and outstanding achievements that advance the goals of reducing the under-representation of minorities in the Institute, the chemical engineering profession, and engineering as a whole.


Professor Peeples teaches or has taught Bioseparations, Senior Laboratory Experience, Engineering Problem Solving I, Process Calculations, Chemical Reaction Engineering, Introduction to Biochemical Engineering, Advanced Biochemical Engineering, and Biotechnology of Extremophiles. Professor Peeples is a member of numerous technical societies including: The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, The Society for Biological Engineering, The National Society of Black Engineers, The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers The Society of Women Engineers, and The American Society of Engineering Educators. Professor Peeples serves as the 2006 Chair of the AIChE MAC minority affairs committee of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), advisory council member for the Iowa Energy Center, and an executive board member of the University of Iowa Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing. In addition to professional service, Dr. Peeples serves as Youth leader for University Baptist Church in Iowa City where her family attends.








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