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Justin R. Barone


Ph.D., Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, 2000

M.S., Engineering Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology, 1997

B.S., Materials Science and Engineering, Lehigh University, 1994


Jan 2007 - Present - Associate Professor, Biological Systems Engineering Department, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Sept. 2002 - Dec. 2006, Research Chemist, USDA/ARS, Beltsville, Md.

Apr. 2000 - Sept. 2002 - Advanced R&D Engineer, Polymer Diagnostics, Inc. (a division of the PolyOne Corp.), Avon Lake, Ohio

Jan. 1995 - Feb. 1996 - Project Engineer, Utility Development Corporation, Livingston, N.J.


Editorial Board Member, Biological Physics, Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group.

Courses Taught Last Five Years

  •  BSE 3154 Thermodynamics of Biological Systems
  • BSE 3504 Transport Processes in Biological Systems
  • BSE 4514 Industrial Processing of Biological Materials
  • BSE 4644/5644 Biobased Industrial Polymers
  • BSE 5944 Seminar

Other Teaching and Advising

I have mentored 27 undergraduate students in my research laboratory in the past 5 years and served as the Director of the NSF-REU Site: Bioprocess Engineering for Sustainability.

Program Focus

The Renewable Materials Research Group is interested in how polymer molecules change shape and how that can be used advantageously to process polymers in new ways.  We want to design scalable, low energy processes for renewable materials.  We are pursuing innovative materials and interesting processing:

Self-assembly. “Template” proteins are short, hydrophobic proteins that form β-sheets to minimize free energy.  “Adder” proteins are hydrophilic, α-helical proteins that are stable by themselves.  However, when mixed with a template protein, adder proteins will undergo α-helix to β-sheet conformation change.  The two proteins cooperatively self-assemble from the nm to the μm scale into large amyloid fibers 10-20 μm across.  It is possible to control the shape and properties of the fiber through protein choice.  We are using this unique construction scheme as a platform to design useful materials such as textiles, composites, biosensors, and catalysts.

Polymer Processing. Our research group specializes in biopolymer compounding.  We continue to pursue the creation of new biopolymers for use in commodity plastics applications like packaging and automobile parts.  Typical polymer processing involves synthesis, compounding, and molding.  Biopolymers are synthesized in water at low temperature and atmospheric pressure.  Typical fossil fuel based polymers are synthesized in organic solvent and/or at very high temperature and pressure.  Both are compounded and molded but biopolymers are compounded and molded at much lower temperature.

    Barone figure 450

The Renewable Materials Research Group is part of the Biomolecular Engineering Cluster at Virginia Tech, which includes the Biofuels and Carbohydrates Laboratory , Metabolic Engineering and Systems Biology Laboratory , Ruder Research Group , and Zhang Research Group .

Selected Recent Publications

(* undergraduate student, ** graduate student, *** post-doc)

  • E.C. Claunch** and J.R. Barone, “Changing morphology of self-assembled protein structures,” Langmuir, submitted.
  • W. Zhang**, J.R. Barone, and S.H. Renneckar, “Biomass fractionation after denaturing cell walls by glycerol thermal processing,” ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, submitted.
  • C.S. Tuck*, A. Latham*, P.W. Lee*, and J.R. Barone, “Wheat gluten protein plasticized with its own hydrolysate,” Journal of Polymers and the Environment, in press (2014).  
  • W.H. Frame**, D.M. Ridgley**, K. Gaasch*, M. Alley, J.R. Barone, and C. Shang, “Ureolytic activity of soybean and corn residue extracts,” Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, in press (2014).
  • D.M. Ridgley**, E.C. Claunch**, P.W. Lee*, and J.R. Barone. 2014. “The role of protein hydrophobicity in conformation change and self-assembly into large amyloid fibers,” Biomacromolecules, 15(4), 1240-1247.
  • D.M. Ridgley**, B.G. Freedman**, P.W. Lee*, and J.R. Barone. 2014. “Genetically encoded self-assembly of large amyloid fibers,” Biomaterials Science, 2(4), 560-566.
  • J.R. Barone. 2014. “Composites of nanocellulose and lignin-like polymers,” in Cellulose Based Composites. New Green Nanomaterials, ed. J. Hinestroza and A. Netravali, Chapter 9, pgs. 183-199, Wiley-VCH.
  • D.M. Ridgley**, E.C. Claunch**, and J.R. Barone. 2013. “Characterization of large amyloid fibers and tapes by FT-IR and Raman spectroscopy,” Applied Spectroscopy, 67(12), 1417-1426.
  • D.M. Ridgley** and J.R. Barone. 2013. “Evolution of the amyloid fiber over multiple length scales,” ACS Nano, 7(2), 1006-1015.
  • D.M. Ridgley**, E.C. Claunch**, and J.R. Barone. 2012. “The effect of processing on large, self-assembled amyloid fibers,” Soft Matter, 8(40), 10298-10306.
  • D.M. Ridgley**, K.C. Ebanks**, and J.R. Barone. 2011. “Peptide mixtures can self-assemble into large amyloid fibers of varying size and morphology,” Biomacromolecules, 12(10), 3770-3779.
  • N.K. Budhavaram**, M. Stauffer*, and J.R. Barone. 2011. “Chemistry between cross-links affects the properties of peptide hydrogels,” Materials Science and Engineering Part C: Materials for Biological Applications, 31(5), 1042-1049 (2011).
  • R.K. June**, C.P. Neu, J.R. Barone, and D.P. Fyhrie. 2011.“Polymer mechanics as a model for short-term and flow-independent cartilage viscoelasticity,” Materials Science and Engineering Part C: Materials for Biological Applications, 31(4), 781-788.
  • N.K. Budhavaram** and J.R. Barone. 2011. “Quantifying amino acid and protein substitution using Raman spectroscopy,” Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, 42(3), 355-362.
  • N.K. Budhavaram**, J. Miller*, Y. Shen**, and J.R. Barone. 2010. “Protein substitution affects glass transition temperature and thermal stability,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58(17), 9549-9555.
  • G. Farrar**, J. Barone. 2010. A. Morgan, “Creation of ovalbumin based porous scaffolds for bone tissue regeneration,” Journal of Tissue Engineering, 209860 (6pp).
  • Z. Li**, S.H. Renneckar, and J.R. Barone. 2010. “Nanocomposites prepared by in-situ enzymatic polymerization of phenol with TEMPO-oxidized nanocellulose,” Cellulose, 17(1), 57-68.
  • A. Athamneh** and J.R. Barone. 2009 (Invited paper). “Enzyme-mediated self-assembly of highly ordered structures from disordered proteins,” Smart Materials and Structures, 18(10), 104024 (8pp).
  • J.R. Barone. 2009. “Lignocellulosic fiber-reinforced keratin polymer composites,” Journal of Polymers and the Environment, 17(2), 143-151.
  • R.K. June**, J.R. Barone, D.P. Fyhrie. 2009. “Aggrecan stiffness affects tissue-level cartilage stress-relaxation,” Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 17(5), 669-676.

Selected Recent Funding

  • 2013-2016 NSF-EEC-RET, “Biomechanics from molecular to organismal scales,” $499,670 (senior personnel)
  • 2014-2015 VAC, “Biobased ground covers,” $20,000 (PI)
  • 2012-2015 NSF-EEC-REU, “REU Site: Bioprocess engineering for sustainability,” $368,461 (PI)
  • 2013-2014 VT-ICTAS, “Genetically encoded 3D printing (GET-Print),” $20,063 (PI)
  • 2010-2014 USDA, “Light activated bonding of lignocellulose,” $503,903 (senior personnel)
  • 2009-2014 USDA, “Education Proposal: Bio-based Sustainable MAterials as Resources for Tomorrow (BSMART),” $500,000 (Co-PI)