2015 Bioenergy Systems

Updates for Summer 2016 coming soon

Some details currently appearing on this site are still for Summer 2015. By mid-November we'll have our Summer 2016 updates in place, ready for you to browse and apply!

Study Bioenergy!
The research of today for the solutions of tomorrow.

For information contact

Julie McManamey
REU Coordinator
2014 Bioenergy Systems REU students
2014 Bioenergy Systems REU students

Application Dates

Nov 15 App opens
February 1 Priority deadline
March 1 App closes
April 1 Decisions complete

Program Dates

June 7 Arrival day
June 8 Program begins
August 12 Program ends
August 13 Departure day

Who should apply

Related fields

  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Most other engineering or science related disciplines

Applications are encouraged from students with sophomore standing or higher and a GPA of 3.0 or higher.


Participation in the Nebraska Summer Research Program is limited to students who meet the following criteria:
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Current undergraduate with at least one semester of coursework remaining before obtaining a bachelor's degree

See Eligibility for more information.

How to apply

Follow the application steps to submit the following materials.

About the Program

The School of Biological Sciences' Microbiology Initiative and Center for Plant Sciences Innovation administers the Bioenergy Systems REU at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Faculty mentors involved in the program are diverse in their research with laboratories covering a wide spectrum of bioenergy research topics such as the study of non-food crops for biomass production, metabolic engineering of oilseed biosynthesis, green algae as liquid biofuel production systems, microbial carbon sequestration, biochemical pathways of lignocellulose conversion, and system engineering of microorganisms for biomass conversion.

Summer scholars in our program are matched with a faculty mentor and participate actively in the design and implementation of a ten-week research project. Students explore the frontiers of knowledge and learn cutting-edge techniques, while having access to state-of-the-art instrumentation in individual labs as well as in the core facilities.

A weekly seminar series will provide an opportunity to exchange ideas with other students, researchers, and faculty. The program also offers a number of social and recreational activities as well as several seminars about graduate school. We expect that the diversity of experiences will encourage students to pursue scientific careers in sustainable energy systems, productively contributing to solving society's needs.
A summer scholar studies the physiological aspects of quorum sensing in eukaryotes alongside her mentor and one of the lab's graduate students.
A summer scholar studies the physiological aspects of quorum sensing in eukaryotes alongside her mentor and one of the lab's graduate students.


  • Competitive stipend: $5,000
  • Double-occupancy room and meal plan
  • Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
  • Campus parking and/or bus pass
  • Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
  • Wireless internet access


  • Weekly Wednesday seminar lunches
  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Campus and department orientation
  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Professional development workshops (e.g., applying to graduate school, taking the GRE)
  • Welcome picnic
  • Day trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
  • Canoe and camping trip
  • Research symposium
Learn more about academic and financial benefits.

2015 Mentors and Projects

Audrey Atkin, Ph.D. School of Biological Sciences

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.

Paul Blum, Ph.D. School of Biological Sciences

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.

Nicole Buan, Ph.D. Biochemistry

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.

Edgar Cahoon, Ph.D. Biochemistry

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.

Heriberto Cerutti, Ph.D. School of Biological Sciences

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

Steve Harris, Ph.D. Plant Pathology

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.

Robert Hutkins, Ph.D. Food Science and Technology

Modulation of the Gut Microbiota by Prebiotics
The Hutkins Lab studies bacteria important in human health and in fermented foods. The lab is particularly interested in understanding factors that affect persistence of probiotic lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, we are focused on establishing the molecular basis for metabolism of prebiotic oligosaccharides and how these prebiotics shift the intestinal microbiota in humans and animals. We are also interested in the anti-adherence properties of oligosaccharides against intestinal pathogens and the molecular mechanisms involved in pathogen binding to the surface of host cells.

Xu Li, Ph.D. Civil Engineering

Anaerobic Digestion
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 using tools of comparative genomics, molecular evolution, and molecular biology to identify the adaptive changes in mitochondrial and chloroplast genomes in response to the bioenergetic needs of oleaginous algae.

Kenneth Nickerson, Ph.D. School of Biological Sciences

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.

Wayne Riekhof, Ph.D. School of Biological Sciences

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.

Karrie A. Weber, Ph.D. School of Biological Sciences

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.

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.