Investigating the metabolic processes of plants and microbes
The Metabolomics and Bioconversion Group performs multidisciplinary R&D for the Department of Energy’s relevant applications including the characterization of plant biomass and microbial cultures that are potentially suitable for biofuel production.
The group consists of researchers and support personnel who apply expertise in metabolomics, plant physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, chemistry, chemical engineering, spectroscopy, and physics. These disciplines are integrated to determine the phenotypes of native and genetically-modified (transgenic and cisgenic) perennial dicots and monocots that are suitable biomass crops, including Populus, Eucalyptus, Agave, and switchgrass (Panicum). These metabolomic analyses are additionally coupled with genome-wide association studies to identify gene function and are applied in plant-microbe interactions to determine the basis of symbiotic and pathogenic relationships as well as the nature of signaling between organisms.
The group's role in bioprocessing research includes investigation of the use of microorganisms, microbial consortia, and microbial enzymes in bioenergy research to determine how efficiently cellulolytic, fermentative, and exoelectrogenic microbes degrade and process plant biomass into biofuels. Group members combine molecular dynamics simulation and neutron scattering experiments to understand changes in lignocellulosic biomass during pretreatment.