Nancy Lape Research Group

Nancy Lape, Professor of Engineering and interim department chair,  joined the Department of Engineering at Harvey Mudd College in 2005 and serves as the director of the Patton and Claire Lewis Fellowship in Engineering Professional Practice. Her research focuses on energy-efficient composite gas separation membranes and chemical transport across human skin. Professor Lape received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. In 2009, she received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award. Dr. Lape focuses her research on two areas: energy-efficient composite gas separation membranes and chemical transport across human skin.

Nanocomposite Membrane Lab

To efficiently and effectively separate gas mixtures–such as applying a filter system to trap harmful gasses from factory emissions–membranes must exhibit high gas permeability (fast transport) and high selectivity for one gas over the other. Unfortunately, these properties tend to be diametrically opposed. Lape’s lab examines the crossover between permeability enhancement and reduction with changes in particle size and polymer type. Understanding these effects will allow for the design of tunable membranes for gas separations.

Transdermal Transport Research Lab

Human skin provides a two-way barrier that prevents potentially harmful chemicals or diseases from entering the body while slowing water as it exits the body. Medicines applied to the skin may thus not work effectively due to the barrier of the outermost layer of skin, the stratum corneum. Molecules on the skin’s surface must pass this layer to reach the bloodstream. Lape’s lab investigates the potential increase in skin permeability by mechanical extension, and the effects of hydration on rate of transport, research that could lead to improved transdermal drug delivery systems.

Lewis Fellowship in Engineering Professional Practice

The Patton and Claire Lewis Fellowship Program provides Harvey Mudd College students with experience and rigorous study of professional practice as either a Lewis Professional Research Fellow or a Lewis Professional Industrial Fellow. The fellowship is named for Patton Lewis, a former HMC faculty member and professional engineer who devoted his life to applying engineering principles to his work, and Claire Lewis, a home economist, who, as a professional, taught many women home economics topics.

Lewis Fellowship logo