Professor Sankaran Thai Thayumanavan has agreed to serve as interim department head of Biomedical Engineering (BME) starting in January of 2021, concurrent with his roles as the Distinguished Professor in Chemistry and director of the Center for Bioactive Delivery in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS). Thayumanavan has already taken on the role of an associate department head in BME in order to collaborate closely with the current interim BME department head, Professor Tilman Wolf, during the transitional phase.
As Dean Sanjay Raman of the College of Engineering says, “Thai brings tremendous experience in self-assembled responsive materials and their use in diverse applications, including therapeutic delivery, sensing, and diagnostics, leadership in translational research, and a track record of outstanding mentorship of graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and junior faculty.”
Dean Raman adds that “I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Tilman for going above and beyond the call of duty to serve as interim BME department head for the past year plus and continuing on through this transition period, on top of numerous responsibilities at the campus, college, and departmental levels during extraordinarily challenging times. He is due for a serious vacation.”
According to Thayumanavan, he grew up in the state of Tamil Nadu in India, where he lived his early childhood near the city of Tirunelveli, before spending his college years in the beautiful temple city of Madurai. He obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from The American College in Madurai. Thereafter, he obtained his Ph.D. degree working in organolithium chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
After a postdoctoral stint at the California Institute of Technology, working on developing optoelectronic materials, Thayumanavan started his independent career as an assistant professor at Tulane University. After four years at Tulane, he moved his lab to UMass Amherst in 2003.
As head of the Thayumanavan Research Group, Thayumanavan explains that “We are interested in translating novel polymer-based molecular assemblies into innovative materials to make a lasting impact in biomedical and sustainability applications. For example, we are developing fundamental guidelines on the structural features in self-assembled materials that make them predictably respond to external cues.”
Thayumanavan adds that “Such an understanding has far-reaching implications in a variety of areas, especially in engineering novel therapeutic and diagnostic solutions for critical biomedical problems. The intellectual starting point of our work is novel molecular designs that offer materials with advanced capabilities that do not currently exist and therefore are capable of addressing specific societal needs.”
Dean Raman says that “I am confident that Thai will have a tremendous impact on moving the BME department forward, mentoring our young faculty, and expanding research collaborations within IALS and beyond. Please join me in welcoming Thai to the team!”