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NARASIMHAN TO LEAD INSTITUTE FOR COMBINATORIAL DISCOVERY AT IOWA STATE
 

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Balaji Narasimhan, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Iowa State University, has been named director of the Institute for Combinatorial Discovery (ICD) by Iowa State Vice Provost for Research John Brighton.

Narasimhan joined the Iowa State faculty in 2001; he had previously taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He received his BS in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, in 1992 and his PhD in chemical engineering from Purdue University in 1996. An expert in the molecular design of nanostructured polymer systems and biomaterials for use in vaccine delivery and other medical applications, in 2003 Narasimhan was named one of the world’s “Top 100 Young Innovators” by Technology Review.

Combinatorial science (“CombiSci”) involves the use of massively parallel strategies for the discovery and high-throughput screening of thousands of new materials over a relatively short time span. Whereas traditional one-at-a-time methods can take many weeks or even years to analyze huge libraries of materials samples, CombiSci is capable of compressing this process to a matter of days or even hours, allowing scientists and engineers to develop novel materials to meet emerging critical needs rapidly.
Designated as one of six flagship research initiatives at Iowa State by President Gregory Geoffroy in 2002, the ICD focuses largely on opportunities in the vital research area of materials. Today the ICD comprises nearly three dozen researchers from 12 different departments at Iowa State, including chemistry, chemical and biological engineering, physics, mechanical engineering, veterinary microbiology, and materials science and engineering, among others.

Iowa State’s Institute for Combinatorial Discovery has evolved rapidly over the space of only four years. The ICD scored a major coup in 2005 when materials scientist Krishna Rajan, one of the world’s foremost experts in materials informatics, relocated his National Science Foundation International Materials Institute to the Iowa State campus. With Iowa State’s acquisition of a Blue Gene/L supercomputer last January and other advanced instrumentation soon to come online, the ICD is poised to become one of the globe’s leading materials research centers.