Rajesh Davé, a problem-driven inventor whose groundbreaking methods for re-engineering tiny particles have fueled advances in such diverse areas as weapons safety and drug delivery systems, has been named a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Drawing on physics, chemistry and engineering, Davé’s research into the behavior of particles is fundamental and his methods for adapting them, widely applicable. For example, by shaking granular or particulate materials along with nanomaterials, which form a thin coating around them, he is able to optimize their flow, among other processing improvements.

Davé, distinguished professor of chemical and materials engineering, called it both “humbling and thrilling” to be elected this year as a fellow of both AIChE and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. He credited his success to “the hard work of my students and support from my department.”

Most recently, he has been re-engineering drug particles to enhance the effectiveness of medications in a variety of ways: by increasing the absorption rates of drugs with poor water solubility, delaying the release of medications that degrade in the acidic environment of the stomach and masking the bitter tastes of drugs to make them more palatable for children as well as for adult patients who have difficulty swallowing.

“I know there are still many important discoveries ahead of us, including many exciting opportunities for engineers to play a central role in devising methods for dispensing medicine in a precise manner at the point of care and in developing individualized complex and combination dosages through 3D printing,” says Dave, who is currently a Fulbright fellow at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

In his new post, Davé said he is both “learning from my new collaborators and engaging my students in exciting new areas such as drug delivery and particle engineering, particularly as applied to the additive, powder-based manufacturing of organic materials.” 

Three years ago, he was tapped for one of AIChE’s major career honors: the Lectureship Award in Fluidization, a process for agitating solids such as powders and particles in order to make them behave like liquids. By fluidizing particles, engineers are able to adapt their structure and behavior to improve products ranging from cement, to cookies, to fuel, to cancer medications, to sunscreen, while making it faster and more efficient to manufacture them.

“What I find most interesting about these materials is that they defy easy categorization as solids, liquids or gases. For example, individual particles are solid, but collectively they don’t behave as solids,” Davé noted at the time. “Fluidizing fine particles is a challenge, in part because the established equations governing these states of matter don’t apply.”

Davé’s induction as a Fellow, according to AIChE executive director June Wispelwey, “reaffirms the high esteem with which your colleagues and peers view your distinctive professional achievements and accomplishments.”

His career is distinguished as well by its comprehensive reach, notes Lisa Axe, chair of the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, who cites the impact of his widely disseminated scholarship, his professional leadership as a journal editor and chair of AIChE’s Particle Technology Forum, and his relevance to industry, including many collaborations.

She adds, “I know that he is particularly proud of his students. He has advised an impressive 30 Ph.D. students, including eight women. Seven of his advisees are now themselves academics, while many are playing significant roles in advancing research and development in the pharmaceutical industry.”