The research seeks to understand and harness biological processes from molecular to cellular levels for biocatalysis, biotherapeutics, and disease prevention. Topics include development of microbial fuel cells for production of electricity and hydrogen (Frymier, Borole), redesign of natural protein machinery for biosensors and biotherapeutics (Boder), application of computational methods to study fundamental processes in cell biology and immunology (Abel), understanding lipid formation and distribution in cells, development of nanotechnologies to treat cancers in obese patients (Dalhaimer), and development of Virulent Pathogen Resistance (ViPaRe) technology for effective antimicrobials (Trinh).
All Data All The Time for Abel
Assistant Professor Steven Abel and his group create physical or mathematical models, helping researchers gain a better understanding of how cells behave.
Trinh Tackles Cells at Their Core
Ferguson Faculty Fellow Cong Trinh’s research combines a wide range of math, science, and computing with the goal to reduce lag times in identifying and responding to diseases.
Faculty Feature: Paul Dalhaimer
Paul Dalhaimer and his research team are primarily interested in researching the molecular mechanisms governing the onsets of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The group uses biophysical and engineering tools to understand the formation and distribution of lipid droplets. In addition, the team is looking at the effects of patient metabolism on the efficacy of drug delivery vehicles.
Endogenous carbohydrate esterases of Clostridium thermocellum are identified and disrupted for enhanced isobutyl acetate production from cellulose
Esters are versatile chemicals with broad applications as flavors, fragrances, solvents, and biofuels. By using bioinformatics and enzymatic characterization, Cong Trinh’s group identified and genetically disrupted carbohydrate esterases responsible for hydrolysis of isobutyl acetate in Clostridium thermocellum. The team demonstrate that the esterase disruption significantly reduces the ester degradation and hence improves ester biosynthesis while not affecting the strain’s capability of effectively assimilating cellulose. This work, published in Biotechnology and Bioengineering, advances the development of consolidated bioprocessing microbe for conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to designer bioesters.
Shaping membrane vesicles by adsorption of a semiflexible polymer
Steve Abel’s research group has discovered that polymer adsorption on membrane vesicles can significantly impact both polymer and vesicle shapes, with some emergent configurations resembling the budding of viruses from cell membranes. This work, published in Soft Matter, is a step toward designing macromolecules to probe and actuate membranes.
Microbial Biosynthesis of Lactate Esters
Cong Trinh’s lab developed novel microbial cell factories capable of producing lactate esters from fermentable sugars. This finding opens new opportunities to make green solvents from renewable and sustainable feedstocks. This research is published in the journal of Biotechnology and Biofuels.
Graphitic coated Al nanoparticles manufactured as superior energetic materials
The large heat release predicted in the investigations of Al NPs used in solid-state propulsion and pyrotechnics has been offset by hindered diffusion-limited detonation rates due to excess oxide shell formations and surface area loss from aggregations. This study, published in Applied Surface Science, unveils the synthesis-structure-property relations in LASiS-based manufacturing of energetic nanocapsules within graphitic shells that are safe to handle and can undergo kinetically controlled spontaneous energy release under desired conditions.