We are interested in the genomics, physiology, enzymology and biotechnological potential of microorganisms that thrive in extreme environments, i.e., extremes in temperature, pressure, pH, ionic strength, etc. Our primary focus is on extremely thermophilic microorganisms, which are isolated from geothermal sites and volcanic regions and typically have optimal growth temperatures above 70°C. Because of the high temperatures at which these bacteria and archaea can be cultured, they produce highly thermostable enzymes that hold promise as biocatalysts. Metabolic pathways encoded in the genomes of extreme thermophiles have great potential for technologically important biotransformations. Molecular genetics systems have recently become available for several extreme thermophiles, thereby creating opportunities for metabolic engineering and synthetic biology at high temperatures.
Our research efforts are aimed at the interface between biology and engineering. We have addressed issues of fundamental importance in understanding the bioenergetics, biochemistry, physiology and genomics of extreme thermophiles. These studies have given rise to a number of technologically important developments related to bienergy and biofuels, recovery of base, precious and strategic metals from ores, and industrial biocatalysis. Students involved in this research should expect to develop expertise in biochemistry, biophysics, microbiology, molecular biology, and genomics to complement their training in biomolecular engineering.
Focus Areas – Biomolecular Engineering. Biocatalysis at Extremely High Temperatures. Microbial Physiology. Functional Genomics. Bioenergy and Biofuels.
Plant biomass fermentation by the extreme thermophile Caldicellulosiruptor bescii for co-production of green hydrogen and acetone: Technoeconomic analysis, BIORESOURCE TECHNOLOGY (2022)
- A genomic catalog of Earth’s microbiomes , Nature Biotechnology (2021)
- Enzymes from extremely thermophilic bacteria and archaea: Current status and future prospects , Extremozymes and their Industrial Applications (2021)
- Fox Cluster determinants for iron biooxidation in the extremely thermoacidophilic Sulfolobaceae , ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY (2021)
- Genome-Scale Metabolic Model of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii Reveals Optimal Metabolic Engineering Strategies for Bio-based Chemical Production , mSystems (2021)
- Integrating Bioinformatics Tools Into Inquiry-Based Molecular Biology Laboratory Education Modules , FRONTIERS IN EDUCATION (2021)
- Intersection of Biotic and Abiotic Sulfur Chemistry Supporting Extreme Microbial Life in Hot Acid , JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B (2021)
- Intersection of Biotic and Abiotic Sulfur Chemistry Supporting Extreme Microbial Life in Hot Acid , Journal of Physical Chemistry B (2021)
- The biology of thermoacidophilic archaea from the order Sulfolobales , FEMS Microbiology Reviews (2021)
- Thermophilic microbial deconstruction and conversion of natural and transgenic lignocellulose , Environmental Microbiology Reports (2021)