Laboratory Overview

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Research Interests

Our laboratory is currently focused on four primary research areas. The first focus involves the study of biosynthetic pathways for commodity fuels and high-value products from select bacteria and algae. Our second focus is on bacteria and cyanobacteria capable of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) and the role these species play in the biological nitrogen cycle. Our third focus is related to the production of extracellular fermentable sugars from phototrophs (algae) and our final focus is related to organisms that are capable of biodegrading commodity plastics and other polymers in the environment.

Members of our laboratory must have a strong biology and biochemistry background with an interest in applied and basic science. In recent years, we have been constructing various tools for genetic approaches in model bacteria, and are interested in biosynthetic approaches to produce compounds that could replace current fuels or have value as specialty chemicals.

Specific Research Projects

  • Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF) for sustainable solutions to agriculture and aquaculture
  • Extracellular sugar production by model green algae
  • Wax ester production in the model bacterium Marinobacter aquaeolei¬†VT8
  • Triacylglyceride (TAG) production from alkaline diatoms
  • Directed evolution approaches for novel protein design and pathway engineering
  • Identification of microbes capable of biodegrading polyethylene and polystyrene


New (and Returning) Lab Members

09/21/2019 - 23:04

8/30/2019 - We want to welcome Erin Schwister, who will be pursuing her Masters degree in the Bioproducts and Biosystems Science, Engineering and Management (BBSEM) program. Erin is working to develop improved genetic techniques in Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus. We also welcome the return of Carolann Knutson who will be furthering her research while she pursues her PhD in the Bioproducts and Biosystems Science, Engineering and Management (BBSEM) program.

New Paper

09/21/2019 - 23:00

9/24/2018 - Carolann, Marnie and Rachel published their new paper "Efforts toward optimization of aerobic biohydrogen reveal details of secondary regulation of biological nitrogen fixation by nitrogenous compounds in Azotobacter vinelandii" in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. Congratulations to all.

New Paper

09/21/2019 - 22:57

8/17/2018 - Carolann and Evelyn published their new paper titled "Effect of temperature control on green algae grown under continuous culture" in Algal Research. Congratulations Carolann and Evelyn.

New Lab Member

09/21/2019 - 22:52

8/1/2018 - Natalia Calixto Mancipe officially joined the laboratory to begin working toward her PhD. She will be working on wax ester biosynthesis and plastic bioegradation. Welcome Natalia.