Jonathan Raftery is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Karim’s group, and he is working on the process design, optimization, and control of bioprocesses. Biochemical processing provides a promising platform for the production of many key consumer needs, including liquid fuels and pharmaceuticals. However, these processes are usually not as economically attractive as many of the currently used petrochemical processes. Jon’s work looks to develop novel, continuous processing strategies that can positively impact the profitability of these biochemical systems while also improving their overall productivity. In the area of renewable liquid fuels, Jon uses process synthesis methods to elucidate the optimal method for the large-scale, continuous production of economically attractive ethanol via consolidated bioprocessing and butanol via acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation; various options for biomass feed stock and chemical pretreatment are simultaneously considered in these process designs. His work also involves developing novel operation schemes for the continuous production of pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals to improve process productivity while reducing operating expenses. Through the use of a multi-feed bioreactor capable of modulating substrate addition and dilution rate independently, Jon is able to use advanced process control methodologies to predict the optimal feeding patterns of glucose and ethanol substrates to maximize the productivity of -carotene production. These results can be used for many other desired compounds along the -carotene pathway, including the renewable liquid fuel precursor bisabolene and the chemotherapy agent paclitaxel (Taxol™).
Jon is from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and he received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. While there he conducted undergraduate research with Dr. David M. Ford, focusing on quantifying the free energy of nanoparticle self-assembly using molecular dynamics simulations. While in Dr. Karim’s group at Texas A&M, Jon has had the opportunity to present his work around the country at multiple conferences, including AIChE National and Spring Meetings and the Foundations of Computer Aided Process Design (FOCAPD) and Operations (FOCAPO) conferences. Additionally, Jon has been very involved in teaching within the department and has participated in the Graduate Teaching Fellowship three times, acting as the co-instructor for the Process Integration, Simulation, and Economics course with Drs. MM Faruque Hasan and Mahmoud El-Halwagi. He plans on using this experience to pursue a career in academia, with his research focusing on developing new intensified methods for the production of bio-based fuels and pharmaceuticals. During his free time, Jon enjoys cooking, watching a variety of sporting events, especially those involving the Boston area sports teams, as well as playing racquetball and video games.