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Kristi S. Anseth

Tisone Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering,
University of Colorado
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator,
University of Colorado
BSChE ’92

In recognition of her outstanding technical and academic accomplishments and her breakthrough work in the fields of biomaterials and tissue engineering

Kristi Anseth is a chemical engineer who has been on the fast track since arriving as an undergraduate at Purdue, where she first began exploring polymers and the life of a research scientist. She completed her PhD at the University of Colorado in just two years and stayed there to begin rising rapidly through the faculty ranks with publications and various awards.

She had a banner year in 2008. Anseth was named a distinguished professor, the youngest in university history. Popular Science named her one of the “Brilliant Ten,” and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers named her among the “One Hundred Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era.”

Anseth is already a member of the National Academy of Engineering (elected 2009) and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2010). Then just 40, she was the youngest member ever selected to both academies. She says she had never even met an engineer while growing up in rural North Dakota. But Anseth’s curiosity about the possibilities of science and math, with a particular focus on chemistry, drew her to Purdue.

“Purdue offered a world-class program in chemical engineering and I had a chance to meet and learn from numerous faculty and graduate students as an undergraduate student,” says Anseth who did her primary work with Nicholas Peppas. “I was surrounded by people who were exceptional examples of the best teachers and researchers.”

On the research front, Anseth combines a mixture of polymer chemistry and physics, molecular and cellular biology, and molecular simulations and modeling to solve problems in the fields of biomaterials and tissue engineering. She is working with multidisciplinary teams to make an impact in health care.

“We’re trying to develop hydrogel materials to help promote tissue regeneration, such as cartilage,” says Anseth, pointing to initial applications in humans as a promising breakthrough.

But it is not all lab work. Part of the inspiration she took from the faculty at Purdue came from the back and forth of the classroom. “That’s one of the reasons I decided to stay in academia,” Anseth says. “It’s one of the few places where you can do great research, but it’s also all about teaching.”

Today’s engineering students, Anseth says, are not too much different from her own Purdue school days; however, they enter into a world with ever-increasing technology and globalization. There seems ample opportunity to harness these technologies and use engineering principles to tackle the most difficult problems facing society. And should her students be inspired by the early career success of a young research scientist, Anseth will know that academia is indeed the perfect place for her.

Career Highlights

2008-present Tisone Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Colorado
2005-present Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, University of Colorado
2003-2008 Tisone Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Colorado
2000-2005 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Assistant Investigator, University of Colorado
1996-2002 Assistant to Full Professor, University of Colorado
1994 PhD Chemical Engineering, University of Colorado
1992 BSChE ’92, Purdue University