Texas Tech University

Kalavathy Rajan joins FBRI

Norman Martin

August 29, 2023

Kalavathy Rajan, an international expert in renewable bioproducts, has been named an assistant professor within Texas Tech University's Department of Plant & Soil Science, according to officials at the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. She officially steps into her new role on Sept. 1.

Rajan will be based in the department's Fiber & Biopolymer Research Institute (FBRI), where she will focus on developing materials and chemicals from agricultural residues to advance a research program in sustainable bioproducts and strengthen the college's current research team.

One of her goals is to spur the replacement of petrochemical-derived and carcinogenic materials through the development of plant-based alternatives. She will enhance FBRI's competitiveness in biopolymeric products development through state-of-the-art molecular design, chemical modification, and process innovation.

“The general public is unaware of 'forever chemicals' like PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) that are commonly used in fast food packaging and cookware,” Rajan said, “It is our duty to educate them, as well as to provide cost-effective natural alternatives that are functional as well as eco-friendly.”

Prior to joining Texas Tech, Rajan served as a research scientist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville's Center for Renewable Carbon. She was instrumental in securing up to $1.6 million in federal grants for developing bio-based alternatives to PFAS, as well as valorizing biorefinery co-products. She also worked as a post-doctoral research associate with the Department of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, as well as with the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville's Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering.

Rajan received her bachelor's degree in agriculture from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, India. Following that, she got the Navaj Bhai Ratan Tata Fellowship to pursue a professional master's degree in food science and technology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, as well as master of technology degree in food processing and marketing at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. She also secured the Indian Council of Agricultural Research's International Fellowship (New Delhi, India) to pursue doctorate studies in Food Science at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

Texas Tech's FBRI is staffed and equipped to conduct both fundamental and applied research, ranging from small-scale testing to large-scale manufacturing. A fundamental objective is to foster greater use of natural fibers. Activities revolve around researching, testing, and evaluating natural and man-made fibers, production and evaluation of yarns and fabrics, alternative textile processing systems, dyeing and finishing, special yarn and fabric treatments, development of bioproducts from cotton cellulose, and cotton cell wall biology/biochemistry.

Located some six miles east of the main campus, the facility occupies 110,000 square-feet of space allowing researchers to conduct testing and evaluation from the raw fiber stage through the finished textile product. Facilities include a multimedia classroom, conference room and library, biopolymer research laboratory, phenomics laboratory, short staple spinning laboratory, and weaving laboratory.


This story was first published in the Davis College NewsCenter. See the original article here.