Current Research

Dissection and redesign of the bacterial respiratory powerhouse for synthetic biology

Bacteria have been used to produce valuable chemicals for centuries, and today synthetic biology is rapidly broadening the scope of products that are accessible for manufacture by model organisms, such as E. coli. However, the natural metabolic and homeostatic processes of the host organism can hinder speed and efficiency of chemical production. Therefore, better understanding and control of respiratory processes in bacteria and their impact on engineered metabolic pathways is crucial for progress toward sustainable fuel and chemical production.

engineering respiration

My research is focused on gaining a deep understanding of the diversity of respiratory electron transport chains both within and among species. I am especially interested in utilizing electron transport chains that incorporate extracellular electron transfer modules to connect bacterial metabolism to electrodes, because this will enable electronic control of bacterial metabolism. I aim to discover the mechanisms that allow bacteria to harvest energy from a wide range of electron donors and acceptors and learn how to exploit these mechanisms to optimize energy and cofactor production. This will allow me to create better bacterial chassis strains for fuel and chemical production. 

genetically modified e coli
Genetically modified E. coli with an extracellular electron transfer module attached to and respiring with an iron oxide particle. Photo credit: Karina K.