Texas Tech University

Noureddine Abidi

Leidigh Associate Professor
Department of Plant & Soil Science
College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources 

Managing Director
Fiber & Biopolymer Research Institute (FBRI)

What are your research objectives and interests?

My primary field of research has been in biopolymer chemistry, especially cotton fibers. This includes the structure of cellulose in cotton fibers and its impact on the physical properties (length, strength, maturity, elongation), functionalization of surfaces to impart new properties (antimicrobial, oil and water repellency, UV protection, etc.), and development of bioproducts from cellulose (films, porous materials, nanocrystals, etc.).

abidi in lab dress with cotton

How do you feel your research impacts the globe?

Cellulose is a technologically important biopolymer and a sustainable raw material. It is the main component in plants and is considered the most abundant natural polymer on the earth. It is estimated that the yearly biomass production of cellulose is 1.5 trillion tons. Therefore, cellulose is a very important raw material and the primary target for developing an environmentally friendly and economically sustainable renewable biomaterials industry. As our society moves away from petroleum-derived resources, biomaterials developed from biopolymers will become increasingly important. Furthermore, cotton fibers contain more than 95 percent cellulose.

What types of service projects have you been involved with?

I have been involved in various projects aimed at studying the relationships between cellulose structure and cotton fiber physical properties and developing advanced materials from cotton cellulose. These initiatives are very important for our regions because cotton production continues to be an important cash crop. Furthermore, these research activities aimed at developing high value-added products based on cellulose at TTU have the potential of adding a high-tech industry to an already well-established cotton production industry.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on several projects with my graduate students. The first doctoral student is focusing on dissolving cotton cellulose in new ionic liquids. The second student is preparing cellulose-chitin-Quantum Dots composite films for antimicrobial applications. The third is working on dissolving cotton cellulose at room temperature. The fourth is exploring the use of infrared microspectroscopy imaging to study various tissue samples (plants and animals). One master's degree student is looking at the effect of reactive oxygen species on the structure of macromolecules. One post-doctoral scientist is working on the preparation of cellulose porous materials for carbon dioxide sequestration applications.

abidi with grad students in lab dress looking at cotton

Where do you find your inspiration?

Working with students either in the classroom or in the lab provides the best inspiration. My students are energetic, enthusiastic and have critical thinking skills that drive them to ask questions and strive to find the right answers. It is my pleasure to work with them in the lab when they have an issue or during our formal weekly meeting where we discuss results, share ideas and plan for the next experiments. Their involvement and excitement about their research provides the greatest inspiration and love of what I do every day.

What advice do you have for new faculty members about balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—teaching, research, and service—in their careers?

Building a successfully academic career requires three interconnected tasks: teaching, research and service. Teaching students in the classroom requires keeping up with up-to-date research and discoveries in the field of interest. Findings from my own research are integrated in the teaching materials to catalyze discussions and demonstrate how the basic classroom knowledge is integrated in the research. These are critical to prepare our students to enter workforce either as a teacher or as a researcher. The service component is included in various forms of communications, seminars, conferences, meetings and reviewing papers and proposals. Interacting with cotton producers during either meetings, project reports or testing is a critical part of the service we provide to our community.

More about Noureddine Abidi

Dr. Abidi is an associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Science and managing director of the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute at Texas Tech University. He also holds the Leidigh Endowed Professorship. He holds a Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches from the University of Haute Alsace in France and a Ph.D. from the University of Montpellier II in France. Dr. Abidi has generated 82 refereed journal publications/book chapters, two books, more than 127 conference papers, one patent, one provisional patent, and six invention disclosures.

Prior to joining Texas Tech in 1999, Dr. Abidi worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in the materials and membrane processes laboratory of the National School of Chemical Engineering of Montpellier (France); and as a postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of physical chemistry of condensed matter at the University of Montpellier II (France).

Dr. Abidi developed and teaches two graduate courses: PSS5371 Structure and Functionalization of Cotton Fibers and PSS5373 Biopolymers and Bioproducts. He participates in team-teaching of PSS5370 U.S. & Global Cotton Fiber-Textiles Industries. He serves as associate editor of the Journal of Cotton Science. He served as the secretary of the Division of Cellulose & Renewable Materials/American Chemical Society. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, the Fiber Society, the North American Thermal Society, the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and the Association of Universities for Textiles. He is/was advisor to 15 Masters, eight PhDs, and three postdoctoral fellows. Dr. Abidi has received several awards including the CASNR Research Award, Texas Tech University Chancellor's Council Distinguished Research Award, Texas Tech University President's Mid-Career Award, and a Fulbright Grant from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (2016). In addition, he and the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute were honored for their contributions to West Texas in 2015 by the Association for Women in Communication Lubbock Professional Chapter.