Susan Daniel is the Director of the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University. She leads a research group of biomolecular engineers working to understand cell membrane functions and the biological processes that happen within them. Her group pioneered the use of “cell-free” biomembrane platforms for re-creating cellular processes on chip. Much of the work they do has impact in human health or advancing biotechnologies for the good of humankind.
For example, her group examines the interactions of biological “pathogenic” nanoparticles, including viruses, bacterial outer membrane vesicles, and oncogenic extracellular vesicles, with cell membrane surfaces. This work has elucidated how these interactions lead to specific biological outcomes like virus infection and disease, biofilm development, and new tissue growth. Her group’s recent work leverages biomembrane chips for synthetic cellular biomanufacturing in “organelles-on-a-chip” to produce therapeutic biomolecules. And more recently, her group has embarked on studies of plant cell membranes, motivated by the impact of climate change on the ability of plants to adapt. Susan has published her work in top journals including Science, the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, and Advanced Materials. Susan and her group’s research has garnered a number of scientific recognitions. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2011, the Schwartz Life Sciences award in 2016, and in 2017, Susan was honored with the College of Engineering’s Research Excellence Award. Four of her current students received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, several have been honored with prestigious Sloan Fellowships, and others have been selected to participate in esteemed NIH-funded training grants.
Susan believes that greater access to education for all people leads to more diverse perspectives and greater creativity, which are essential to pursue her research topics. She is committed to the promotion of inclusive and empowering environments in all aspects of education, but especially the STEM fields. Susan has served as the Director of Graduate Studies in her department from 2016-2019. During her tenure in that role she developed and implemented new recruiting practices for graduate students, taking the bold position that she could meet demographic parity and still maintain graduate student quality. These practices have translated to the most diverse classes CBE has had in its history with high water marks of 65% women in the 2019 entering PhD class and 40% underrepresented students in the 2018 entering PhD class, both marks well above the national average. 2018 also brought students from 10 countries.
Susan has served as the faculty advisor for the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Graduate Women’s Group (CBE Women) from 2008-2020. This group provides professional development and leadership opportunities to graduate students to complement their technical graduate education. In 2018, she founded a Diversity and Inclusion Program within her department to educate and inform members about inclusive practices and to build an enriching environment for all - from the classroom to the lab - to help all students succeed and reach their potential. Susan has been honored for her commitment to increasing access to education for all students with the Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award in 2012, the Zellman Warhaft Commitment to Diversity Award in 2014, the Alice H. Cook award in 2015. She was also selected to the shortlist of the 2016 international GEDC Airbus Diversity Award for her work advising the outreach program, (called WOMEN), for 10th grade girls and their families from rural upstate communities.
Susan serves as the faculty-in-residence for Balch Hall: the all-women, freshmen residence hall. In this role she provides educational programming and intellectual engagement activities for a hall of 445 women. Among her favorite offerings is a “Learning Where You Live” course she teaches on women’s leadership and empowerment. Balch Hall counts Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg among its alumnae and Susan considers it an honor to lead Balch now and positively influence today’s young women to set their sights high and aspire to impactful life pursuits, perhaps inspiring tomorrow’s Supreme Court justice, leading tech entrepreneur, or president!
Susan holds a BS, MS and PhD from Lehigh University and conducted her post-doctoral work at Texas A&M University in the Department of Chemistry. She considers it an honor to share authorship with Nobel Laureate Professor Pierre de Gennes on one of her early publications in graduate school, which set her onto the pathway of becoming an academic professor.
In Susan’s free time she enjoys getting back to nature and hiking. She has completed 200 miles of GR5 trail through the French Alps, has hiked through the wilds of Montana and seen grizzly bear and moose at close range, and enjoys climbing the mountains of the high peak area in the Adirondack Park in her home state of New York.
Dr. Daniel has taught the following courses:
ENGDR 2190: Mass and Energy Balances, a sophomore-level core class
CHEME 4320: Unit Operations Laboratory, a senior-level core class
CHEME 7130: Physical and Chemical Kinetics, a graduate-level core class
CHEME 7920: Principles and Practices of Graduate Research, a graduate-level seminar class
Selected Awards and Honors
2020 Elected Chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Bioanalytical Sensors
2017 College of Engineering Research Excellence Award, Cornell University
2016 Schwartz Award in Life Sciences, Cornell University
2011 NSF CAREER Award
2019 Advanced Career Faculty Champion Award, Cornell University
2015 Alice H. Cook Award, for improving the climate for women at Cornell University
2014 Zellman Warhaft Commitment to Diversity Award, College of Engineering, Cornell University
2012 Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award, Anita Borg Institute
2011 American Society of Engineering Education Outstanding Teaching Award, St. Lawrence Section