Professor, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering,
Director, Energy & Environment Initiative
Our research focuses on microbial catalysis in an effort to understand how microbial cells function and how they can be manipulated to produce valuable chemicals.
Although microorganisms are intrinsically capable of biosynthesizing a wide range of useful chemicals (i.e. metabolites), they typically do so at concentrations and rates that do not correspond to those required for commercial production. A complex network of regulatory, enzymatic, and transport processes determines which metabolite is synthesized (and at what level) under a given environmental condition. We believe then that the successful manipulation of cellular metabolism requires an understanding of these biological processes. This constitutes our research philosophy, which is brought to practice by using functional genomics and system biology tools and putting them to the service of both pathway discovery and metabolic engineering.
The contributions from every research project in our group are two-fold. First, from a fundamental standpoint, we contribute to the (improved) understanding of the biological process under study. Second, from an applied standpoint, we use the gained knowledge to design and implement strategies for the production of the desired chemical.
We are addressing several exciting and challenging issues in microbial catalysis such as understanding and manipulating vitamins and cofactors biosynthesis, the anaerobic fermentation of non-traditional carbon sources, the simultaneous metabolism of sugars in sugar mixtures, and understanding and modifying respiratory and fermentative systems for the synthesis of oxidized and reduced products. Specific research areas include metabolic engineering, functional genomics, systems biology, molecular modeling, and microbial fermentation technology. We use a wide spectrum of approaches and state-of-the-art techniques typically viewed under different scientific and engineering disciplines such as chemical engineering, biochemistry, and molecular biology.