MRI's, MRE's, Streams, and Country Music

X. Philip Ye has recently jointed the Biosystems Engineering & Environmental Science Department, and is eager to begin teaching and doing research in bioprocessing.

After receiving his B.S. in China in 1990, Philip worked for several years in a state-owned chemical engineering company, then for an international joint venture, extruding plastic-based packaging materials. In 1996, he came to the U.S., obtaining his M.S. in 1999 from South Dakota State University with an emphasis in Food Engineering & Biomaterials. His research there involved combining "fiber-ized" wheat straw or soy stalks with a soybean-based adhesive to create a bio-based composition board that reduces dependence on petroleum-based products while utilizing agricultural wastes.

Philip's Ph.D. work at the University of Minnesota dealt with applying Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to research the basic chemical and physical properties of food and biomaterials. He developed a method of mapping moisture and temperature distributions in food items -- a technique used, for example, to enhance the stability/shelf-life of U.S. military "Meals Ready to Eat" (MRE) rations.

Professional interests

The sequence of growing, processing, and recombining biomass materials is often referred to as a process stream. The "upstream" includes growing the biomass, reducing its size, and transporting it for further processing. "Midstream" activities include separating and extracting particular compounds or components. "Downstream" activities include creating new products, or producing existing products with new materials or greater efficiencies.

Philip sees his contribution primarily in the midstream and downstream areas of bioprocessing. A typical midstream issue, for example, might be separating the node and internode parts of biomass, or removing undesired lignin and other materials to provide better feedstock to a fermentation process that produces bioethanol or biodiesel. In addition, he hopes to continue his Magnetic Resonance Imaging work, as a means of studying thermal, moisture, and chemical conditions of various processes.

One of the things that excites Philip about his new position is its excellent fit. Inside the department, he is collaborating with Al Womac and Doug Hayes in addressing bioprocessing issues. Elsewhere, he sees significant opportunities, both with other UT researchers, particularly in the Forestry Products Center, Food Science and Technology, and Chemistry, and with the ongoing bioprocess work at the Oak Ridge National Lab.

Outside interests

Philip is married to Julie Chen, and has a young daughter. He enjoys swimming, and, as a men's doubles champion badminton player in college, may try to get involved in that sport at UT. An "avid fan of country music," Philip is delighted to be nearer Nashville and Music City. During his PhD work, since he didn't have much time to watch TV, he subscribed to a single channel -- Great American Country (GAC). Curiously, this interest was kindled in China, when a friend from Germany introduced him to "finger-picking" folk guitar music.


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