Interim Dean Named at School of Engineering

Kyongbum Lee, noted innovator in metabolic engineering, to take the helm on August 24
Kyongbum Lee standing a classroom talking with student Omar M. Abdillahi. A noted innovator in metabolic engineering, Lee will become Tufts School of Engineering ad interim dean on August 24.
“My priority as interim dean will be to continue providing support for our students, faculty, and staff, while advancing the school’s strategic initiatives,” said Kyongbum Lee, here talking with student Omar M. Abdillahi in 2019. Photo: Anna Miller
August 3, 2021

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Kyongbum Lee, professor, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and a leader in the field of metabolic engineering, has been named Karol Family Professor and dean ad interim of the School of Engineering.

The current dean, Jianmin Qu, announced in July that he will join Stevens Institute of Technology in September as its next provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Provost and Senior Vice President Nadine Aubry said Lee’s proven leadership skills allow for a smooth transition to a new dean.

“Professor Lee has, over many years, gracefully and skillfully balanced considerable academic and administrative responsibilities,” she said. “His passion for research is well-matched by his genuine caring for our students and for their promising futures. Our engineering community is in good hands.”

Lee said he looks forward to sustaining the school’s strong momentum. “My priority as interim dean will be to continue providing support for our students, faculty, and staff, while advancing the school’s strategic initiatives,” he said.

He characterizes his most recent leadership experience—as department chair—as deeply rewarding. “I have had the opportunity to recruit amazingly talented faculty and staff and support them in their professional growth,” he said.

“I have also learned how important it is to support the Tufts experience,” he added. “Tufts is a uniquely collaborative place; we are deeply invested in each other’s success. As a student-focused research university, Tufts also offers students and faculty unlimited opportunities for learning and exploration. As interim dean, I will do my best to continue to foster our distinctive culture.”

Lee joined Tufts in 2002 and as an assistant professor, rising to associate professor in 2008 and to full professor in 2014. He was acting chair of chemical and biological engineering from 2010 to 2011, and appointed chair in 2012.

Lee’s Metabolic Engineering Laboratory research group takes a holistic, systems approach to studying cellular metabolism, the process by which nutrients in food are turned into energy, biological building blocks, waste products, and signaling molecules.

His research group is particularly interested in the metabolism of microorganisms residing in the digestive tract. Through their metabolic products, these microorganisms profoundly impact the development and physiology of their human host.

Elucidating these products can help unlock new diagnoses and treatments of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, known to increase the risk of other serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers.

Lee was named a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in 2015 for “outstanding contributions at the interface of biochemical and biomedical engineering through integrated modeling and experimental studies on cellular metabolism.”

His awards include the Jay Bailey Young Investigator Best Paper Award in Metabolic Engineering in 2006 and the Graduate Teaching and Mentoring Award in 2010. 

He is a member of the editorial boards of the journals Metabolites, Adipocyte, and Technology and has served as a guest editor for Advances in Biochemical Engineering, Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering, and Current Opinion in Biotechnology. He has held elected positions of division director and area program chair for the Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Lee earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from Stanford University in 1995 and a Ph.D. from MIT in 2002.