Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois

Kong wins Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research

Congratulations to Dr. Hyunjoon (Joon) Kong, winner of a prestigious College of Engineering Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research.

The Excellence in Research Award is given annually to faculty in recognition of their outstanding research. Award recipients will be honored at the college’s Faculty Awards Ceremony on April 25.

Hyunjoon (Joon) Kong, Associate Professor and Centennial Scholar, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Hyunjoon (Joon) Kong, Associate Professor and Centennial Scholar, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Kong is Associate Professor and Centennial Scholar in the Department of Chemical and Biomoleculer Engineering. He also is affiliated with the Departments of Bioengineering and Pathobiology. His research focuses on the synthesis, characterization, and processing of nanobiomaterials for diagnostic imaging and molecular/cell therapies of wounds and vascular diseases. He joined the faculty in 2007.

In his nomination letter, Dr. Huimin Zhao, the Steven L. Miller Chair in Chemical Engineering, called Kong a “great scientist, supervisor and mentor.”

“I envision that he will greatly continue to create innovative, advanced biomaterial systems, expedite the use of biomaterials in real clinical and industrial applications, and also train new innovative young researchers,” Zhao wrote.

Dr. Kong received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. His graduate study looked at complex fluid rheology, including concrete mix. Kong developed various construction materials with controlled fluidity and ductility. Some of the products he developed, a self-compacting cementitious composite and a sprayable composite, are being used to repair old infrastructures, including bridges and highways.

As a postdoctoral researcher, Kong translated what he learned with complex fluids and construction materials into biomaterial design.

At the University of Illinois, he has developed several biomaterial systems research. Highlights include decoupled control of stiffness and permeability of a hydrogel for 3D cell culture and transplantation; biomaterial systems enabling the control of growth direction and spacing of vascular networks; and a self-folding hydrogel capable of controlling molecular release rate with its shape change. He developed nanomaterial that can guide therapeutic stem cells to target inflamed vasculature. And he is conducting a project looking at self-assembly of multi-functional nanoparticles for image-guided drug delivery, termed “theranostics”, and also a project looking at engineering complex and functional 3D organ-like tissue, termed “organoid” by regulating emergent behavior of “living” biological cells.