uc davis chemical engineering professor chair tonya kuhl

Professor Kuhl in the UC Davis Undergraduate Coffee Laboratory. Photo: Peter Guiliano/Specialty Coffee Association.

August 12, 2019

By Noah Pflueger-Peters

Professor Tonya Kuhl will be the next chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, starting July 1. Former chair Roland Faller is taking his talents to a new role as Associate Dean of Facilities and Capital Planning for the College of Engineering.

Kuhl received her B.S. in chemical engineering at the University of Arizona and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at UC Santa Barbara, continuing on as a postdoctoral scholar in the Materials Research Lab there. She joined UC Davis in 2000.

Since then, she has been active on campus. She is the faculty advisor for the AICHE undergraduate student chapter at UC Davis and is a member of the biomedical engineering, biophysics and materials science and engineering graduate groups. She received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 1999 and was recognized as a Searle Scholar in 2001.

Kuhl is the PI at the Surface and Interfacial Science Laboratory, which studies, measures and characterizes intermolecular and interfacial forces in complex fluid systems. Understanding these forces will help the group develop new materials made from renewable resources for biomedical and engineering applications. Research includes fundamental studies on biological membrane-membrane interactions, polymers, ligand-receptor interactions, nano-assembly, smart films and lipid phase behavior, as well as applied studies on cement additives and the friction, astringency and mouthfeel of red wine and coffee.

She is also instrumental to the multidisciplinary UC Davis Coffee Center as its co-director. The center, along with the flagship course, “The Design of Coffee” (ECH 1), were conceived and developed by her and Professor William Ristenpart. She currently co-teaches the course and is co-author with Ristenpart of the book, The Design of Coffee: An Engineering Approach, which was published in 2015. The third edition, which includes new laboratory exercises will be available this fall.

She also teaches “Introduction to Chemical Engineering” (ECH 5), also with Ristenpart, along with “Chemical Engineering Transport Lab” (ECH 145B) and “Chemical Engineering Profession” (ECH 80)—all for undergraduates.

“I have enjoyed teaching almost all of the courses I have ever taught at Davis,” she told The California Aggie. “I especially enjoy the labs, where I really get to know the students well.”

Professor Roland Faller had been department chair since the Department of Chemical Engineering became independent from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2016. Kuhl, who now succeeds him, has been vice chair since 2015.