Postdoctoral scholar Reid Van Lehn has been named to Forbes's annual 30 Under 30 list in the science category. The list honors 30 outstanding individuals under 30 years old in 20 different categories, from venture capital to sports to science. Van Lehn was recognized for his research on chemically engineered nanoparticles and their interactions with cell membranes.
"I'm honored to be included amongst this impressive list of scientists—both those named this year and in prior years," Van Lehn says. "I know many dedicated researchers both at Caltech and elsewhere who are deserving of such accolades, and I feel very fortunate to have been recognized for my contributions. I would especially like to thank my colleagues and advisors, who have had a profound effect on my education and research and have been immensely supportive throughout my career."
Van Lehn uses molecular simulation to study what happens when synthetic molecules—engineered nanoparticles injected into the body—and biological molecules interact with cell membranes. During his graduate work at MIT, he discovered a mechanism by which certain kinds of nanoparticles insert themselves into cell membranes, a finding that could have implications in novel drug delivery pathways. As a postdoc in Professor of Chemistry Tom Miller's group at Caltech, Van Lehn uses simulations to study how membrane proteins integrate into cell membranes via a protein-conducting channel called the Sec translocon.
This fall, Van Lehn will join the faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, in its Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. His research will focus on developing and utilizing new simulation methods to understand the interactions of bioactive materials and engineer novel nanoparticles for therapeutic applications.
When not in the lab, Van Lehn can be found avidly playing or watching sports. "I hail from Pittsburgh, so I primarily follow the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates," he says. "I also play pickup Ultimate Frisbee, and I can occasionally be seen being horribly outplayed in pickup basketball."