Bioenergy and the Environment

Featured Research

Conversion of Proteins into Biofuels by Engineering Nitrogen Flux
  — Prof. James C. Liao
Proteins to Biofuels

Prof. James Liao investigates the possibility of using proteins to synthesize biofuels.
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Bioenergy and the Environment research at UCLA aims for the development of advanced biofuels and chemical feedstocks, using genetic reengineering of enzymes and reprogramming of microbial cells by advanced synthetic biology.

To this end, analysis of algal and other microbial genomes for discovery of new enzymes and pathways for energy production are actively being carried out, along with analysis of algal and other microbial genomes for discovery of new enzymes and pathways for energy production.

Other areas of development involves the design and synthesis of biomaterials for CO2 capture, and development of statistical methods for more rapid discovery of useful genes.

Professor James U. Bowie
Dr. James Bowie and his group are fascinated by protein structure, folding and stabilization. This interest has led them into three main areas: (1) learning how membrane proteins fold and how they can be stabilized; (2) the structures and biological functions of a biological polymer they discovered, that is formed by a very common protein module called a SAM domain; (3) developing and stabilizing enzyme pathways for the production of biofuels.
Professor Robert T. Clubb
Professor Robert Clubb is developing methods to produce biofuels from sustainable plant biomass. Lignocellulosic plant biomass is an attractive feedstock for the sustainable production of biofuels, chemicals, and materials because it is renewable, highly abundant, and inexpensive. A major obstacle limiting its industrial use is the lack of low-cost technologies to degrade lignocellulose into its component sugars. Using synthetic biology methods, his group is engineering microbes to display surface multi-enzyme complexes that enable them to breakdown plant biomass efficiently. Ultimately, they hope to use this technology to create a consolidated bioprocessor, a single microbe that has the ability to convert lignocellulose into biofuels and other valuable commodities.
Professor David S. Eisenberg
Professor David Eisenberg and his research group focus on protein interactions. In their experiments they study the structural basis for conversion of normal proteins to the amyloid state and conversion of prions to the infectious state. In bioinformatic work, they derive information on protein interactions from genomic and proteomic data, and design inhibitors of amyloid toxicity.
Professor Juli Feigon
Professor Juli Feigon and her research group study nucleic acid structure and specific recognition of nucleic acids by proteins. Her group focuses on determining the three-dimensional structures of DNA and RNA, and on investigating their interactions with various proteins and ligands, and to study nucleic acid folding.
Professor James C. Liao
Professor James Liao and his group focus on metabolism, including its biochemistry, extension, and regulation. His group uses metabolic engineering,synthetic biology, and systems biology to construct microorganisms to produce next generation biofuels and to study the obesity problem in human. Their ultimate goal is to use biochemical methods to replace petroleum processing and to treat metabolic diseases.
Professor Sabeeha S. Merchant
The Merchant research program focuses on trace metal metabolism using Chlamydomonas as a reference organism. The group uses a combination of classical genetics, genomics and biochemistry to discover mechanisms of trace metal homeostasis in Chlamydomonas, especially mechanisms for reducing the quota or for recycling in situations of deficiency.
Professor Todd O. Yeates
Dr. Todd Yeates and his group focus heavily on structural, computational, and synthetic biology aspects of chemistry. The group's emphasis is on supra-molecular protein assemblies and synthetically designed protein assemblies, and conducts research in computational genomics in order to infer protein function and to learn new cell biology.