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Advancing understanding of complexity in biological systems

Advancing understanding of complexity in biological systems

The Biosciences Division (BSD) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is focused on advancing science and technology to better understand complex biological systems and their relationship with the environment. The division has expertise and special facilities in genomics, computational biology, microbiology, microbial ecology, biophysics and structural biology, and plant sciences. This collective expertise includes collaborations within and outside ORNL and focuses on scientific challenges in biology for Department of Energy (DOE) missions in energy and the environment.

BSD is home to the Center for Bioenergy Innovation, a DOE Bioenergy Research Center focused on developing plants and microbes for a new generation of cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and industrially-relevant bioproducts and biofuels. Research also focuses on Plant-Microbe Interfaces, examining the exchange of energy, information, and materials between plants and microbial communities. Understanding the biological processes transforming mercury into the toxin methylmercury in the environment is another focus area.

Scientists in BSD use high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, and genomic algorithms to uncover networks of genes that contribute to complex traits critical in bioenergy, human health, and other focus areas. They leverage ORNL’s neutron science capabilities to increase understanding of the myriad structures and interactions inside cells. Researchers are examining the way proteins fold and how the cycling of disordered proteins between various three-dimensional shapes affects how genes are expressed. Fundamental science discoveries about the human microbiome are helping to inform the development of new diagnostics and new treatments for a range of diseases.