Co-regulated Gene Networks
The Atkin lab studies gene regulatory mechanisms using yeast as a model with the goal of understanding how genes are co-regulated and the impact that regulation has on cell physiology.
Energy Metabolism in Thermophiles, Algae and Fungi
Diverse microbes are being engineered to improve synthesis of renewable energy and chemical feedstocks such as cellulosic ethanol, biohydrogen, and chemical intermediates.
Metabolic Engineering of Methane Production by Anaerobic Archaea
Metabolic engineering of methane production by anaerobic archaea Methanogenic archaea (methanogens) in the environment produce 2 gigatons of methane annually. The Buan lab is focused on engineering methanogens by manipulating the electron transport system to produce organisms that are suitable for industrial-scale production of methane as a renewable energy source.
Metabolic Engineering and Functional Genomics of Oilseed Crops for Improved Oil Content and Composition
We conduct research to modify lipid metabolism in oilseeds and algae to increase the oil content and improve fatty acid composition of vegetable oils for biofuels and biobased lubricants. The research not only is aimed at outcomes to address world energy needs but also at providing basic insights into plant and algal fatty acid biosynthetic and metabolic pathways and their regulation.
Algae as Model Systems for Oil Biosynthesis and Biofuel Production
We are interested in improving, by genetic, genomic and biochemical means, the capability of algae to accumulate oil in order to create a reliable and sustainable source for the production of next generation biofuels. Undergraduate students participating in these projects will have the opportunity to learn a variety of biochemistry, molecular biology and bioinformatics techniques; participate in the design, execution and interpretation of experiments; and contribute to publication in scientific journals.
Concetta DiRusso, Ph.D. Biochemistry
Chemical triggers of lipid synthesis and storage in algae for biofuel production
Undergraduate students participating in this project will be a part of the identification and characterization of chemical triggers of lipid synthesis and storage in algae for biofuel production
Chemical Signaling in Fungi as a Potential Source for Biofuels
Fungi utilize an array of chemical signals to coordinate growth, morphogenesis, and development. Because these signals are related to biofuels and other high-value compounds (e.g., butanol, farnesol), we are interested in learning how they are synthesized and in understanding their mechanisms of action. Current projects will focus on the use of functional genomic screens.
Probiotics and Co-aggregation Systems
Current research is focused on physiological and genetic analyses of carbohydrate metabolism by lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria used as starter cultures and as probiotics. We are particularly interested in how these bacteria metabolize prebiotic sugars and are using functional genomics analyses to identify relevant pathways.
We are interested in developing and optimizing anaerobic digesters to convert solid and liquid wastes to methane gas and other value added products. Students will receive interdisciplinary training in environmental engineering and environmental microbiology.
Jeffrey Mower, Ph.D. Center for Plant Science Innovation Agronomy and Horticulture
Organelle Adaptation for Increased Cellular Bioenergetics
Developing algae for biofuels will place extreme energy demands on the cell, requiring increased efficiency and energy output from the mitochondria and chloroplasts. We are interested in evaluating the adaptive changes in mitochondria and chloroplasts to meet the bioenergetic needs of oleaginous algae.
Physiological Aspects of Quorum Sensing in Eukaryotes
Our lab studies bacterial, fungal, and algal systems. Active areas of research include: fungal dimorphism in Candida albicans and Ceratocystis ulmi; farnesol as a quorum sensing molecule (QSM) produced by C. albicans; farnesol's mode of action as a QSM and as a virulence factor; anaerobic growth of C. albicans; urea metabolism in C. albicans and other fungi; biotinylated histones in C. albicans; chlamydospore formation in C. albicans; high cell density QSMs from diatoms and other algae; detergent resistance in algae; and microbial ecology of alkaline lakes in Western Nebraska.
Lipid biology, biochemistry and molecular biology of algae
James L. Van Etten, Ph.D. William B. Allington Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology
Pathogens of Algae
Research in the Van Etten laboratory focuses on the isolation and characterization of large (encode more than 400 proteins) icosahedral, dsDNA-containing, plaque-forming viruses that infect certain unicellular, eukaryotic chlorella-like green algae. These viruses are ubiquitous in fresh water from all over the world. In addition to being pathogens, the algal viruses are a source of elements (e.g., promoters) for genetically modifying algae for biofuels.
Rock and the Role of Microorganisms in the Environment
Microorganisms are capable of utilizing a diversity of energy sources in the environment as such their metabolism has contributed to the production of biofuels and the generation of electricity. Research in the Weber laboratory assesses and seeks to understand how these organisms take advantage of these energy sources and influence carbon, nitrogen, iron, and uranium cycling in aquatic, soil, and sedimentary environments.
The Role of the CO2-concentrating Mechanism in Photosynthesis-driven Lipid Biosynthesis in Algae
The CO2-concentating mechanism (CCM) is essential for photosynthesis-dependent growth of most algae. Enhancement of this mechanism through genetic engineering of algae used for algal biofuel production may, in the long-term, have significant practical application. Studies of the CCM in the Weeks laboratory have lead to the discovery of a number of the key components of the CCM in the model alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. The focus of the project to be conducted by a student will be to attempt overproduction of the HLA3 bicarbonate transporter to determine if there is enhancement of CO2 uptake, algal growth and lipid synthesis. This project will provide the student with experience in recombinant DNA technology, biochemistry, molecular genetics, and cell physiology. In addition, the student will have an opportunity to work with the newly developed TALEN system for targeted gene knockout and gene replacement. Starting materials exist for all of the experiments involved in this project and its completion should require no more than eight weeks.
Bin Yu, Ph.D. School of Biological Sciences
RNA Silencing in Plants
RNA silencing is a process triggered by 21-24 nucleotide RNAs to repress gene expression. The Yu lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms governing RNA silencing and development of RNA silencing based technologies that can be used to improve crop traits.