Current Research

Understanding Evolutionary Changes in Multifunctional Cellulases

My research focuses on using enzymes as innovative biotechnology tools for sustainable production of plant biomass-derived carbon fuels and products.  We are working on overcoming the resistance of plant polysaccharides to enzymatic digestion by screening genomic space for new, multifunctional glycoside hydrolases, and deepening our mechanistic understanding of biomass deconstruction through protein structure determination.  I am taking a quantitative biochemical approach to map and measure enzyme activity, stability, and synergy within the framework of bioprocessing plant materials for downstream fermentation into fuels or chemical commodities.  At a more basic level, I seek to understand the evolutionary processes which give rise to specificity in carbohydrate-active enzymes.  Our lab collaborates with numerous groups through the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and other Bioenergy Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.