Virginia Tech® home

Kevin Edgar

Industry Leader Spotlight

Kevin Edgar

Chemistry of Natural Polysaccharides, Sustainability, Drug Delivery, Infectious Disease, Glycoscience

I grew up in New Jersey in a working class family, ten miles west of the George Washington Bridge, and was fortunate to attend Bucknell University in Pennsylvania — thanks to a then-generous student loan program and lots of side jobs! Again, fortune smiled down on me and Duke admitted me for doctoral studies in organic chemistry and my job at Kodak started a few days after my Ph.D. orals! My career at Eastman Kodak Chemical was a joy and through contacts made at the American Chemical Society, my transition to Virginia Tech was enabled in 2007. That unusual career combo is a real advantage.

My major fields of interest are the chemistry of natural polysaccharides, glycoscience, creating methods for selective synthesis of derivatives of the complex and challenging polysaccharides, designing sustainable-based materials for optimal performance, biodegradable materials for low environmental impact, and biomedical applications including delivery of poorly soluble, low bioavailability active molecules, and tissue engineering.

These interests translate into my research, which is based on the chemistry of natural polymers that are made of chains of sugars, not unlike a charm bracelet that are called polysaccharides. These benign, biodegradable, sustainable materials are incredibly diverse and abundant in nature. They are severely underutilized and researchers work very hard to understand their structure/property relationships, thereby designing useful new materials. These new natural-based materials can be designed for the highest performance and mild environmental impact.

I first discovered a passion for this work ...
When I was working for Eastman Chemical Company, more or less by accident; the more I learned, the more it ignited my passion and interest.

My work impacts society ...
Our materials promise to make existing drugs work much better, and to make more new drugs available to patients. We can design materials that perform the needed task, then degrade back to materials that nature can reuse, rather than clogging the digestive tract of a bird or fish. We create an understanding of how natural polymers work, towards a more sustainable world.

The most formative experience I've had ...
I'm very fortunate to have been able to have a great industrial career before coming to Virginia Tech. The experience and skills gained at Eastman are invaluable for my roles at Virginia Tech, especially with regard to leading, managing, and working with students.

I see the future in my field ...
Polysaccharide chemistry and the broader glycoscience field are the last great, crucial challenge in understanding natural polymers and their influence on life itself.

My favorite quote ....
Shakespeare and Lincoln are two of my favorites; both had remarkable insights into the human soul, and ability to convey important thoughts in a few words. "We can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract" - the Gettysburg Address is such a wonderful example.

In my free time ...
I love to get out and enjoy a trail in the beautiful New River Valley, take our hyper dog for a stroll, enjoy a meal with friends, and spend time with my wife, daughter, and brothers.

Best part of working at Virginia Tech ...
The ability to influence and help develop young people is a remarkable privilege and a source of ever-renewing joy.

Something that excites me in my field ...
Understanding how nature creates, controls, and uses natural polysaccharides to influence everything from blood clotting, to brain development, to working joints, to invasion by pathogens, and far beyond.

Groups or organizations I am involved in ...
American Chemical Society (ACS) in so many ways. Appalachian Trail Conservancy as a long time maintainer of the trail and a through hiker (Georgia to Maine, 2200 miles).

Honor or award I am most proud of ...
Four of my students have won the Graduate Student award from the ACS division of Cellulose & Renewable Materials (one first place award per year in an international competition). No other lab approaches that number - I'm so proud of our students.

Last article I read ...
The work on carbohydrates attached to COVID proteins has been fascinating; how important they are to entry of the virus into cells, how hard they are to characterize, how far behind the work on the protein itself this lags (because it is a harder problem). This underlines the importance and great challenges of glycoscience.

Words of encouragement to an aspiring inventor ...
Work on important problems and do hypothesis-based, fundamentally strong work.

Why Chemistry ...
Chemistry combines the fundamental (it is, after all, the central science) with the hands-on and practical in a way that appeals greatly to me. I grew up in a working class family, and the ability to apply both my mind and my hands to chemical science has always been uniquely satisfying.

Media Contact:

Lindsey Haugh

(540) 231-6959

Additional Highlights

Kevin Edgar    |    Professor and Associate Dean, Graduate School  

Sustainable Biomaterials, Virginia Tech

(540) 231-0674

Graduate School - Faculty Bio Page

Department of Sustainable Biomaterials - Faculty Bio Page




Loading player for