Marc Aucoin

Academic Director, WatPD Engineering

Marc Aucoin is standing at an exciting crossroad, a place where chemical engineering and virology intersect.

The Waterloo chemical engineering professor’s interest in biology is specific to viruses because of their ability to take over the control of cells. He believes chemical engineers, with their background in design and process, are well suited to study viruses and their potential uses. Viruses and virus-like products, says Marc, often need to be mass-produced for use in vaccines.

“This reason alone has created a huge amount of interest in producing these viruses,” says Marc, also a Waterloo alumnus with a BASc and MASc in chemical engineering.

Aucoin is inspiring chemical engineering students to pursue research in this area through his involvement with the Waterloo International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM) team. As one of the team’s advisers Marc recruits students to work as part of the team on their co-op terms.

Marc feels Waterloo’s chemical engineering department – with more than a third of the faculty members pursuing bio-related research – is a great place for someone who has always been fascinated with how biology works and now especially viruses. ”Viruses are neat little organisms that teeter on the wall between the living and the non-living,” he says “They’ve survived by making sure that they can infiltrate cells, deliver their genetic payload and replicate themselves.”

Marc is currently researching “enveloped viruses”, a group that includes influenza, herpes, HIV and the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).