RBI Initiative Lead Profile: Blair Brettmann

Image of Blair Brettmann, Associate Professor at Georgia Tech

Blair Brettmann, Associate Professor and RBI's Interface of polymer science and wood-based materials initiative lead at Georgia Tech (Photo credit: Garry McLeod/Lawrence Livermore National Lab)

Blair Brettmann, associate professor, Solvay Faculty Fellow, and Raymond and Stephanie Myers Faculty Fellow in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, co-leads the interface of polymer science and wood-based materials initiative with Will Gutekunst at Georgia Tech’s Renewable Bioproducts Institute

Brettmann’s current research focuses on developing technologies that enable multicomponent, rapidly customizable product design, with a specific focus on polymer systems. 

Brettmann received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering at MIT in 2012 working with the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing under Bernhardt Trout. Later, she worked on polymer-based wet coatings and dispersions for various applications at Saint-Gobain Ceramics and Plastics. She went on to serve as a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago with Matthew Tirrell. Below is a brief Q&A with Brettmann in which she discusses her research focus areas and how they influence the interface of polymer science and wood-based materials research at Georgia Tech.

  • What is your field of expertise and at what point in your life did you first become interested in this area?

My expertise is in polymer science and materials design for manufacturability. I got excited about this area after my Ph.D. when I worked for Saint-Gobain and saw firsthand the challenges of bringing new products to market, especially those made of complex mixtures of materials. 

  • What questions or challenges sparked your current renewable bioproducts research? What are the big issues facing your research area right now?

Sustainability of materials and process is a top priority right now across many industries, and renewable bioproducts research is helping to improve this. But it is still tough to design and scale up products made with these materials because of the heterogeneity of the raw bio-based materials and recycled materials that now serve as the raw materials. Engineers are essential to design systems that can be robust despite the heterogeneities and still produce consistent, high-quality products.

  • What interests you the most in leading the research initiative on the interface of polymer science and wood-based materials? Why is your initiative important to the development of Georgia Tech’s Renewable Bioproducts research strategy?

One of the most promising directions to decrease the impact of plastics on the environment is to replace some of the synthetic plastic materials with natural products, such as cellulose from wood. My initiative aims to build better connections between polymer scientists working to design improved plastics and experts in bio-based materials to seed research that can work toward this goal. Polymers also serve as important tools to improve the properties of cellulose and wood-based products and can enable new materials with increased functionality that still have sustainable materials at their core.

  • What are the broader global and social benefits of the research you and your team conduct on the interface of polymer science and wood-based materials?

We work to improve the sustainability of material products while addressing specific challenges related to manufacturing and scale-up, which can speed up the adoption of these more sustainable products in industry. We take a wide view of the problem and have even worked on a project to understand consumer choices in recycling: If people don’t recycle the material, our efforts to make recyclable products will not have an impact!

  • What are your plans for engaging a wider Georgia Tech faculty pool with the broader renewable bioproducts community?

Using symposia, social events, and student-centered networking, I will bring the broad Georgia Tech Polymer Network community together with the RBI community.

  • What are your hobbies?

Water polo and swimming. I train with the Atlanta Rainbow Trout, who practice at the Georgia Tech pool.

  • Who has influenced you the most?

 I’m constantly learning from people around me!

News Contact

Priya Devarajan || RBI Communications Program Manager