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Cong T. Trinh

Cong Trinh.

Cong T. Trinh

Ferguson Faculty Fellow in Chemical Engineering, Professor

Contact Information

Cong Trinh.

  • Office Address: 432 Dougherty Engineering Building
  • Phone: 865-974-8121
  • E-mail:
Group Website


  • PhD, University of Minnesota; Chemical Engineering
  • BS, University of Houston; Chemical Engineering (Summa Cum laude, Honors thesis); Mathematics (minor); Chemistry (minor)


Cong Trinh.

Cong T. Trinh received a BS degree in Chemical Engineering (with summa cum laude, honors thesis) at the University of Houston in 2003; a PhD degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 2008; and a postdoctoral research training at the University of California, Berkeley in 2008. In 2011, Trinh started his academic career as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2017 and is currently a Ferguson Faculty Fellow in Chemical Engineering. In Spring 2023, he is a visiting scholar at University of California, Berkeley.

Trinh has a broad research interest in the interdisciplinary areas of systems and synthetic biology, metabolic and biochemical engineering, and microbial cell physiology. His research is focused on fundamentally understanding complex cellular systems and developing novel experimental and computational tools to control these systems for biotechnological applications related to energy, food, health, and environment. Research thrust 1 is to understand the principles of modular design in biological systems and develop the transformative MODCELL (Modular Cell) technology to engineer modular chassis cells for rapid development of novel microbial biocatalysts for industrial biocatalysis. Research thrust 2 is to understand the mechanisms to inactivate pathogens and develop the transformative ViPaRe (Virulent Pathogen Resistance) technology to effectively combat rapidly evolving and resistant pathogens. Research thrust 3 is to understand the mechanisms of cellular robustness against environmental perturbation and develop effective defensive tools to boost cellular robustness for applications from disease prevention to novel biocatalysis.

Awards and Recognitions

  • 2023: Faculty Research and Scholarship Achievement Award, UTK
  • 2021: Thomas & Ruth Clark Excellence in Chemical Engineering Award
  • 2019: DARPA YFA Director Fellowship
  • 2019: TCE Teaching Fellow Award
  • 2018: Chancellor Research & Creative Achievement/Professional Promise
  • 2018: TCE Professional Promise in Research Award
  • 2017-present: Ferguson Faculty Fellow
  • 2017: DARPA Young Faculty Award
  • 2017, 2014: CBE Outstanding Teaching Award, UT
  • 2017: ASEE New Researcher Award
  • 2016: Thomas & Ruth Clark Chem Eng Excellence Award in Teaching, UT
  • 2016: CoE Professional Promise in Research Award, UT
  • 2016: NSF CAREER Award
  • 2014: Professional Development Award, UT
  • 2013-2015: Summer Pre-College Service Award, UT
  • 2010: Best Poster Award at Metabolic Eng VIII Conference, Republic of Korea
  • 2007: Best Poster Award at LifeScience Alley Conference and Expo, Minnesota
  • 1999-2003: Dean’s list, UH
  • 2001: University Scholars Program scholarship, UH
  • 2000: Cullen College of Engineering scholarship, UH
  • 1999-2001: Lubrizol scholarship, UH

Professional Service

  • Chairs and Coordinators for AIChE, ACS BIOT, and SIMB
  • Editor board for Frontiers in Systems Microbiology; Frontiers in Microbial Physiology and Metabolism; Journal Biochemical Engineering, Processes, and BioDesign Research
  • Reviewer for NSF, USDA, and DOE
  • Member, American Society of Chemical Engineering
  • Member, Society of Biological Engineering
  • Member, American Chemical Society
  • Member, Society of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology
  • Member, International Metabolic Engineering Society
  • Member, Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Honors Society
  • Member, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
  • Member, Omega Chi Epsilon, Honor Society of Chemical Engineering


Cong Trinh.

  • Systems and Synthetic Biology
  • Metabolic Engineering
  • Biochemical Engineering
  • Microbiome engineering
  • Computational Biology
  • Cell Physiology
  • Pathogens
  • Bioenergy, Biofuels, Biochemicals, and Biochemicals
  • Genome Editing
  • CRISPR technology
  • Therapeutics
  • Antimicrobials
Google Scholar


*corresponding author, §undergraduates, #equal contribution

  • Seo, H., Rauhuff, H., Singh, P., Cai, C., Wyman, C., Trinh, C.T.*, 2023. Rewiring Metabolism of Clostridium thermocellum for Consolidated Bioprocessing of Lignocellulosic Biomass Poplar to Produce Short-Chain Esters, Bioresource Technol, 384 (2023) 129263.
  • Lynd, L.R., Beckham, G.T., Guss, A.M., Jayakody, L., Karp, E.M., Maranas, C., McCormick, R.L., Amador-Noguez, D., Bomble, Y., Davison, B.H., Foster, C., Himmel, M., Holwerda, E., Laser, M.S., Ng, C.Y., Olson, D.G., Román-Leshkov, Y., Trinh, C.T., Tuskan, G.A., Upadhayay, V., Vardon, D.R., Wang, L., Wyman, C.A., 2022. Biological and Hybrid Biological/Catalytic Conversion of Cellulosic Biomass to Fuels, Energy Environ Sci, accepted.
  • Lee, J., Trinh, C.T.*, 2022. Controlling Selectivity of Modular Microbial Biosynthesis of Butyryl-CoA-Derived Designer Esters, Metab Eng, 69: 262-274.
  • Lee, J., Seo, H., Young, C., Trinh, C.T*, 2021. Probing Specificities of Alcohol Acyltransferases for Designer Ester Biosynthesis with a High-Throughput Microbial Screening Platform, Biotechnol Bioeng, 1-13.
  • Garcia, T., Trinh, C.T.*, 2021 Computational design of modular cells for large libraries of exchangeable product synthesis modules, Metab Eng, 67: 453-463.
  • Walker, C., Dien, B., Giannone, R.J., Slininger, P., Thompson, S.R., Trinh, C.T.*, 2021. Exploring Proteomes of Robust Yarrowia lipolytica Isolates Cultivated in Biomass Hydrolysate Reveal Key Processes Impacting Mixed Sugar Utilization, Lipid Accumulation, and Degradation, mSystems, 6(4): e00443-21.
  • Poudel, S., Cope, A. L., O’Dell, K., Guss, A. M., Seo, H., Trinh, C. T., Hettich, R. L., 2021. An integrated approach to characterize proteins of unknown function (PUFs) in Clostridium thermocellum DSM 1313 as potential genetic engineering targets, BBIO, 14(116): 1-19.
  • Seo, H., Lee, J., Dunlap, N., Giannone, R., Trinh, C.T.*, 2021. Repurposing chloramphenicol acetyltransferase for a robust and efficient designer ester biosynthesis platform, Metab Eng, 66: 179-190.
  • Yang, X*, Medford, J.I., Markel, K., Shih, P., De Paoli, H.C., Trinh, C.T., McCormick, A.J., Ployet, R., Hussey, S.G., Myburg, A.A., Jensen, P.E., Hassan, M.M., Zhang, J., Muchero, W., Kalluri, U.C., Yin, H., Zhuo, R., Abraham, P., Chen, J.G., Weston, D., Yang, Y.., Liu, D., Li, Y., Labbe, J., Yang, B., Lee, J., Cottingham, R.W., Martin, A., Lu, M., Tschaplinski, T.J., Y, G., Lu, H., Ranjan, P., Mitchell, J., Wullschleger, S.D., Tuskan, G.A., 2020. Plant Biosystems Design Research Roadmap 1.0, BioDesign Research 2020.
  • Garcia, S., Thompson, R.A., Giannone, R., Dash, S., Maranas, C., Trinh, C.T.*, 2020. Development of a genome-scale metabolic model of Clostridium thermocellum and its applications for integration of multi-omics datasets and strain design, Frontiers Bioeng Biotechnol, 8:1-16. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2020.00772
  • Garcia, S., Trinh, C.T.*, 2020. Harnessing natural modularity of cellular metabolism to design a modular chassis cell for a diverse class of products by using goal attainment optimization, ACS Synth Biol, 9 (7), 1665–1681. doi:10.1021/acssynbio.9b00518
  • Seo, H., Nicely, P.N., Trinh, C.T.*, 2020. Endogenous esterases of Clostridium thermocellum are identified and disrupted for enhanced isobutyl acetate production from cellulose, Biotechnol Bioeng, 117: 2223-2236. Cover Image doi:10.1002/bit.27360
  • Walker, C., Ryu, S., Haridas, S., Na, H., Zane, M., Labutti, K., Lipzen, A., Barry, K., Grigoriev, I., Trinh, C.T.*, Draft Genome Assemblies of Ionic Liquid Resistant Yarrowia lipolytica PO1f and its superior evolved strain YlCW001. Microbiol Resour Announce, 9(999): e01356-19. doi:10.1128/MRA.01356-19
  • Lee, J., Trinh, C.T.*, 2020. Towards renewable flavors, fragrances, and beyond, Curr Opin Biotechnol, 61: 168-180. doi:10.1016/j.copbio.2019.12.017
  • Walker, C. #, Ryu, S. #, Giannone, R.S., Garcia, S., Trinh, C.T.*, 2020. Understanding and eliminating the detrimental effect of endogenous thiamine auxotrophy on metabolism of the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica, Appl Environ Microbiol, 86(3): e02299-19. doi:10.1128/AEM.02299-19
  • Seo, H.,# Lee, J.,#, Garcia, S., Trinh, C.T.*, 2019. Single mutation at a highly conserved region of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase enables thermophilic isobutyl acetate production directly from cellulose by Clostridium thermocellum, Biotechnol Biofuels, 12(1): 1-13. doi:10.1186/s13068-019-1583-8
  • Liu, D., Chen, Mei, Mendoza, B., Cheng, H., Hu, R., Li, L., Trinh, C.T., Tuskan, G.A., Yang, X.*, 2019. Advanced CRISPR/Cas9 systems for plant functional genomics research, J Exp Bot, 70(22): 6621-6629. doi:10.1093/jxb/erz415
  • Lee, J., Trinh, C.T.*, 2019. Microbial Biosynthesis of Lactate Esters, Biotechnol Biofuels, 12(1):226. doi:10.1186/s13068-019-1563-z
  • Garcia, S., Trinh, C.T.*, 2019. Modular design: Implementing proven engineering principles in biotechnology, Biotechnol Adv, 37(7):107403. doi:10.1016/j.biotechadv.2019.06.002
  • Garcia, S., Trinh, C.T.*, 2019. Comparison of Multi-objective Evolutionary Algorithms to Solve the Modular Cell Design Problem for Novel Biocatalysis, Processes, 7 (6): 361. doi:10.3390/pr7060361
  • Walker, C., Ryu, S., Trinh, C.T.*, 2019. Exceptional Solvent Tolerance in Yarrowia lipolytica Is Enhanced by Sterols, Metab Eng, 54: 83-95. doi:10.1016/j.ymben.2019.03.003
  • Garcia, S., Trinh, C.T.*, Multiobjective Strain Design: A Framework for Modular Cell Engineering, Metab Eng, 51: 110-120. doi:10.1016/j.ymben.2018.09.003
  • Walker, C., Ryu, S., Na, H., Zane, M., Labutti, K., Lipzen, A., Haridas, S., Barry, K., Grigoriev, I., Quarterman, J., Slininger, P., Dien, B., Trinh, C.T.*, 2018. Draft Genome Assemblies for Five Robust Yarrowia lipolytica Strains Exhibiting High Lipid Production and Pentose Sugar Utilization and Sugar Alcohol Secretion from Undetoxified Lignocellulosic Biomass Hydrolysates. Microbiol Resour Announce, 7(12): e01040-18. doi:10.1128/MRA.01040-18
  • Lee, J.W.#, Niraula, N.P.#, Trinh, C.T.* Harnessing a Novel P450 Fatty Acid Decarboxylase from Macrococcus caseolyticus for Microbial Biosynthesis of Odd Chain Terminal Alkenes, Metab Eng Comm, 7: e00076. doi:10.1016/j.mec.2018.e00076
  • Mendoza, B., Trinh, C.T.* In Silico Processing of the Complete CRISPR-Cas Spacer Space for Identification of PAM Sequences, Biotechnol J., 13(9): 1700595. doi:10.1002/biot.201700595
  • Wilbanks, B.#,, Layton, D.S.#, Garcia, S., Trinh, C.T.*, 2018. A Prototype for Modular Cell Engineering, ACS Synth Biol, 7 (1), pp 187–199. doi:10.1021/acssynbio.7b00269
  • Wilbanks, B., Trinh, C.T.*, 2018. Comprehensive Characterization of Toxicity of Fermentative Metabolites on Microbial Growth, Biotechnol Biofuels, 10:262.
  • Ryu, S., Trinh, C.T.*, 2018. Understanding Functional Roles of Native Pentose-Specific Transporters for Activating Dormant Pentose Metabolism in Yarrowia lipolytica, Appl Environ Microbiol, 84 (3), e02146-17. doi:10.1128/AEM.02146-17