The growing push towards developing economically viable options for alternative fuels has generated much interest in the use of lignocellulose as feedstock. However, organisms that naturally consume this material do not produce industrially significant amounts of desired fuels. On the other hand, organisms that are currently being used to produce fuels in industrial settings, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, are not able to metabolize key components of lignocellulose. After glucose, the pentose-sugar xylose is the next most available carbon constituent of lignocellulose. The goal of my research is to reprogram the central carbon metabolism of recombinant, xylose-consuming strains of S. cerevisiae to enhance fermentation characteristics.
High-Throughput Screening of Bulk Metabolism using Microfluidics
Many applications of metabolic engineering involve the generation of diverse populations of mutants (libraries). Isolating mutants with desirable phenotypes is like trying to find a specific blade of grass in a hay stack. Conventional laboratory techniques and instrumentation allow for the high-throughput screening necessary to analyze these libraries, but is restricted to investigation of intracellular metabolites. Our lab has developed a method employing microfluidics to study the bulk (extracellular) metabolism of single cells. By trapping individual cells in the droplets of a water-in-oil emulsion, we are able to measure nutrient uptake or metabolite secretion resulting from the metabolism of single mutants.
- Ph.D. (current) Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- B.S. (2007) Chemical Engineering, Virginia Tech
- B.S. (2007) Chemistry, Virginia Tech
- B.A. (2007) Philosophy, Virginia Tech