The Biomolecular Science Group's research goal is to enable increasingly cost-competitive advanced lignocellulosic biofuels that can be produced at sufficient scale to impact the transportation fuel market. The primary research focus is understanding the molecular basis of biomass recalcitrance and developing enzymatic, microbial, plant biomass modification, and chemical systems to overcome recalcitrance and make possible more competitive and scalable conversion technologies.
Our research approach aims for understanding in three important areas: plant cell wall structure and chemistry across multiple scales; the structure, function, and dynamics of plant cell wall deconstruction biocatalysts; and, importantly, the interactions between substrate (plant cell walls) and the catalysts.
The group's approach takes particular advantage of biological diversity—both natural and man-made—and of the synergy between computer modeling and experiment. Although recalcitrance and the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass into sugar intermediates are the main focus, the conversion of these sugar intermediates into fungible biofuels is a growing part of our research emphasis.
Our group's unique or particularly distinguishing capabilities include:
- Glycosylhydrolase enzymology, structure, function, and diversity
- Structural biology
- Biomass surface morphology and chemical characterization
- Enzyme engineering, expression, and purification
- Macromolecular dynamics and structure modeling and simulation
- High-throughput robotic screening and assays
- Fungal molecular biology
- Cellulose structure
- Biomass pretreatment chemistry
- Microbial fermentation.
For staff profiles, publications, and contact information, see the Biosciences staff page.