Some current research interests in the lab:

1. Plant Synthetic Biology: Plants are essential to our societal infrastructure as the starting point for our food, raw material, and bioenergy economies. Given the scale and utility of agriculture, plants offer a unique platform to address many imminent challenges facing society. Our group focuses on developing the foundational knowledge and technologies needed to innovate, deploy, and engineer new traits into plants using synthetic biology approaches. Beyond biotechnological applications, these approaches will also be utilized to provide more sophisticated tools to improve our basic understanding of plant systems.​

2. Plant metabolic biochemistry and engineering: Plants have evolved a multitude of metabolic pathways, enabling the production of a wealth of chemically diverse compounds. Many of these pathways are responsible for various traits relevant to human health and agricultural sustainability. Our group is interested in understanding core principles of plant metabolism for the ultimate goal of metabolic engineering for specific applications.

3. Evolution of photosynthesis and carbon fixation: Photosynthesis drives nearly all global carbon fixation and thus sustains nearly all of life on Earth. The enzyme at the center of this metabolism is rubisco, which fixes CO2 into organic carbon. This process constitutes the largest flux in the carbon cycle, and has sourced nearly all the organic carbon present on Earth – most notably sustaining our entire food supply. Rubisco has evolved over billions of years under a wide range of atmospheric conditions, as prehistoric CO2 levels were higher and O2 levels much lower than those of today’s environment. Our group utilizes a combination of evolutionary biology, biochemistry, and synthetic biology to understand how rubisco shaped our planet’s carbon cycle over geological timescales, which may provide novel insight to drive future engineering endeavors.