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Prof Marc-Olivier Coppens
Room 306A
Roberts Building, University College London
Torrington Place
Prof Marc-Olivier Coppens profile picture
  • Ramsay Memorial Chair and Professor of Chemical Engineering
  • Dept of Chemical Engineering
  • Faculty of Engineering Science

MSc in chemical engineering, summa cum laude, University of Gent, Belgium (1993).

PhD in chemical engineering, summa cum laude, University of Gent, Belgium (1996).

Visiting scholar Chemical Engineering Department and Department of Mathematics, Yale University, New Haven, USA (1996).

Visiting scholar Chinese Academy of Sciences, State Key Laboratory for Coal Conversion, Taiyuan, Shanxi, China (1996).

Postdoc in Chemical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, USA (1997 - 1998).

Lecturer University of California, Berkeley, USA (Spring 1998).

Assistant Professor (1998), Associate Professor (1999 - 2001), Full Professor in Chemical Reactor Engineering and Catalysis (Dec. 2001 - Feb. 2003), Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands.

Professor and Chair in Physical Chemistry & Molecular Thermodynamics, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands (March 2003 - August 2006).

Full Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA (Aug. 2006 - 2012). Associate Director of Rensselaer's School of Engineering Multiscale Science and Engineering Center (MSEC) (Sep. 2009 - 2012).

Ramsay Memorial Professor in Chemical Engineering, University College London, UK. Head of Department of Chemical Engineering (Oct. 2012-2020). Vice-Dean for Engineering (Interdisciplinarity, Innovation) (2021-). Founder and Director, EPSRC "Frontier Engineering" Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering (CNIE) (2013-). Honorary Qiushi Professor of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China (2017-).



Research Themes
Research Summary

Professor Coppens’s research centres on Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering (NICE), that is, to accelerate innovation in the design and realisation of chemical processes, products, devices, and systems, guided by biological system architecture and dynamics. 

Driven by the urgency of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Grand Challenges, in conjunction with economic requirements, applications target energy and resource efficiency, sustainable and intensified scalable manufacturing, freshwater production, the built environment, health, and biomedical engineering. 

This research forms the core of the UCL Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering (CNIE), which was founded through an EPSRC "Frontier Engineering" Award in 2013. Avoiding direct biomimicry, the CNIE’s research applies fundamental mechanisms underpinning desirable features in biological systems (such as scalability, efficiency, resilience, and circularity) to address similar challenges in technology, adapted to a societal context that includes but often differs from nature. For this, we developed a systematic methodology, called Nature-Inspired Solutions (NIS). 

The CNIE is strongly interdisciplinary, involving researchers from (bio-)chemical engineering and chemistry to computer science, architecture, and medicine. There are numerous collaborators across UCL, the UK and abroad. The CNIE has mechanisms in place for industrial translation of the results, via a highly active advisory board and network of industrial supporters, varying from SMEs to multinationals. Entrepreneurship is stimulated, exemplified by a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Enterprise Fellow, the first RAEng Launchpad Award and UCL Enterprise & Innovation Early Career Award (2019), IP protection and licensing for inventions originated in the CNIE. Products from our work have been on the International Space Station (2021-2) and featured at the Venice Biennale (2021). 

Teaching Summary


• Nature Inspired Chemical Engineering (NICE) course for MEng (4th year undergraduate) and MSc students in chemical engineering (2015-). This module won a UCL Faculty of Engineering Education Award (2020)

• Initiation and collaboration of the MSc Nature-Inspired Solution (NIS) for UCL East, launching in 2023

• Advising teams for 3rd year Process Design, UCL (2012-2014)

Rensselaer, USA:

• Rensselaer School of Engineering Education Innovation Award (April 2012)
• Senior capstone class on Chemical Process and Product Design at Rensselaer, Spring 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. Changed class from process- to product-oriented, involving aspects from engineering, policy, economics, etc. Project-based and communication intensive.
• Senior class on Chemical Reactor Design at Rensselaer, Fall 2009, 2010, 2011.
• Senior Undergraduate Laboratory on Heat Transfer at Rensselaer, 2007, 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012.
• Developed new Senior Undergraduate Laboratory on Chemical Reactor Engineering at Rensselaer, Spring 2012.
• Graduate class on Thermodynamics at Rensselaer, Fall 2008.
• Contribution to Class on Self-Organization in Science and Society (elective, Prof. R. Eglash), Spring 2010.
• Contribution to Freshman class on Introduction to Chemical Engineering, Fall 2008-2011
• Credited Elective on Fractals and Their Applications in Chemical Engineering, at Rensselaer (Fall 2007) for undergraduate and graduate students. Adapted from a course previously taught at U.C. Berkeley (Spring 1998; course ChE 296) and at T.U. Delft (1998-1999, 1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2003).

TU Delft, the Netherlands:

• Credited M.Sc. course on Advanced Materials at T.U. Delft, together with Prof. H. Zandbergen (2006, 2008).
• Freshman (1st year) course Introduction to Process Technology at T.U. Delft, 2001-2005 (the only orientation specific course for chemical technology for 1st year students).  Also, in 2004 and 2005, for freshman students from Delft and Leiden in Sustainable Molecular Science & Technology, and Industrial Ecology MSc students. Awarded ++grade by students in 2005.
• Sophomore (2nd year) course Transport in Living Systems for Life Science & Technology students at T.U. Delft/U. Leiden (new course, together with Prof. L.A.M. van der Wielen, Kluyver Laboratory for Biotechnology, T.U. Delft), 2001-2004
• Credited M.Sc. course on Dynamics and Stability of Physico-Chemical Processes at T.U. Delft, together with Dr. G.J.M. Koper, Prof. S. Kjelstrup (2001, 2002)
• Credited M.Sc. course on Multiphase Reactors, St471 at T.U. Delft (partially), in 1999.

UC Berkeley, USA:

• Credited Elective on Fractals and Their Applications in Chemical Engineering, at U.C. Berkeley (Spring 1998; course ChE 296) 

Ghent, Belgium:

• Heterogeneous catalysis and fractals course at Ghent University, as part of a program for additional schooling for highschool teachers (1995).

JAN-2021 Vice-Dean Engineering (Interdisciplinarity, Innovation) Faculty of Engineering Sciences UCL, United Kingdom
2017 – 2020 Qiushi Chair Professor   Zhejiang University, China
2012 Ramsay Memorial Professor Chemical Engineering UCL, United Kingdom
2012 – 2020 Head of Department Chemical Engineering UCL, United Kingdom
2006 – 2012 Professor Chemical & Biological Engineering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, United States
2003 – 2006 Chair of Physical Chemistry & Molecular Thermodynamics Chemical Engineering TU Delft, Netherlands
2001 – 2003 Professor (van Leeuwenhoek Chair) Chemical Engineering TU Delft, Netherlands
1999 – 2001 Associate Professor Chemical Engineering TU Delft, Netherlands
1998 – 1999 Assistant Professor Chemical Engineering TU Delft, Netherlands
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