Separations Expert Named William Weightman Walker Professor at Rensselaer
Troy, N.Y. — Chemical and biological engineering professor
Steven Cramer was recently appointed as the William Weightman
Walker Professor of Polymer Engineering at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute. The endowed professorship, one of the
two oldest such named professorships at Rensselaer, is the
highest honor bestowed on a faculty member.
“With his research and insight, Professor Cramer continues
to raise the bar for Rensselaer faculty and their students,”
said Alan Cramb, dean of Rensselaer’s School of Engineering.
“Steve has a bright future in his new chaired professorship in
the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and I
thank him for his hard work and dedication.”
Cramer, who served as acting head of Rensselaer’s Isermann
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering from November
2004 to August 2006, is widely regarded as a worldwide leader
in chromatographic bioprocessing and an expert in separations
Along with being honored by the National Science Foundation
and winning several teaching awards, Cramer is the inaugural
recipient of the Alan S. Michaels Award for the Recovery of
Biological Products, the editor of the journal Separation
Science and Technology, and a fellow of the American
Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.
But he considers his work with doctoral and graduate
students as his most significant accomplishment.
“My former students are major players in the bioprocessing
industry in this country,” Cramer said. “They are doing great
work, enabling companies to come up with more efficient
processes and helping to advance the entire industry. That is
what I’m most proud of.”
Cramer received his undergraduate degree from Brown
University, and went on to earn his master’s degree and
doctorate in chemical engineering at Yale University. He joined
the Rensselaer faculty as an assistant professor in 1986 and in
1990 was named the Isermann Associate Professor of Chemical
Engineering. He became a full professor in 1995.
In the early 1980s, Cramer recognized the potential of the
biotech industry and decided to play a role in the emerging
field. He traces this interest to his father’s multiple
sclerosis. Watching his father suffer, Cramer said, “I knew I
wanted to work in medical-related research.”
“I saw that there would be a tremendous need for people
trained in bioseparations, so I chose that as the topic for my
thesis,” he said.
Cramer’s research focuses on using chromatography and
developing new technology to separate and purify biological
compounds. The resulting discoveries have led not only to a
deeper understanding of chromatography but also to the
development of tools that improve the separation process and,
ultimately, may make new medications possible by finding ways
to separate substances that previously could not be
Before a drug can be injected into the body, it must be
extremely pure — a process that typically requires many
separations, each of which is expensive.
“If we can make the process more efficient and more
economical, we can make drugs more affordable,” Cramer
He and his collaborators are responsible for a major shift
in the field of displacement chromatography and the way that
proteins are purified. Their work has resulted in at least four
patents that have been commercialized and are now being used in
the biotech industry.
Along with his post in the Isermann Department of Chemical
and Biological Engineering, Cramer is a member of the Center
for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. He said the
interdisciplinary interaction afforded by the center has played
a major role in his research program.
“My approach to research is to try to be as creative as
possible,” he adds. “The way to do that is to collaborate with
others at the intersection of different fields. The CBIS
provides my research group with an unparalleled opportunity for
carry out cutting-edge multidisciplinary biotechnology related
Contact: Michael Mullaney
Phone: (518) 276-6161