Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"Developing molecular sponges that improve microbial biofuel production"

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Summer 2016 - DURI
Research area(s):
Bioenergy; Synthetic Biology; Microbiology; Biotechnology
Project Description:
Microbes can be reprogrammed as sustainable chemical factories for fuels and value-added chemicals. However, these products frequently impair the health of these living systems leading to low production levels. This project will develop new tools that will enable cells to a) detect environmental cues that affect cellular health and b) effect a response that can improve the production of these microbial factories. The student will investigate the properties of tunable, stimuli-responsive proteins that aggregate in response to indicators of cellular stress such as changes in pH, ionic strength, or increases in temperature. This aggregation process creates a new hydrophobic 'sponge' within the cell that may hold toxic hydrophobic products and protect the cell from its effects. The student will characterize the aggregation properties of these proteins as a function of environmental conditions, and quantify the amount of toxic products these sponges can hold.
Expected Student Contributions:
Students will learn how to grow and transform E. coli, express and purify proteins, perform in vitro and in vivo spectrometric assays, measure the concentration of chemicals in a complex mixture, and molecularly clone new genetic constructs. The student will work with a PhD student and/or the PI.
Related Website(s):
Desired Qualifications:
3.25+ GPA, Interest in biotechnology, previous experience in lab working with microbes
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?

Professor in Charge

Solomon, Kevin
agricultural and biological engineering

Student Supervisor

Kevin Solomon
Assistant Professor

Cooperating Faculty

Julie Liu
Chemical Engineering