Who’s Who

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS AND NOTABLE SCIENTISTS OF BESC

Will York - Biosynthesis

Dr. William York is an Associate Professor Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Computer Science and Plant Biology at the University of Georgia in Athens. His diverse research interests include the development and application of spectroscopic and computational methods for the structural characterization of complex carbohydrates, the development of bioinformatics tools to study the roles of carbohydrates in living systems, and the development of realistic models describing the assembly and morphogenesis of the plant cell walls, which are the most abundant component of terrestrial biomass. This research has potential applications, for example, in biomedical science and development of improved feedstocks for biofuel production. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification Univ of Georgia

Jan Westpheling - Genetics

Dr. Jan Westpheling is a Professor in the department of Genetics at the University of Georgia in Athens. Her research interests include; the rate-limiting step in the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass from crop plants such as Poplar or Switchgrass to biofuels, such as ethanol and biomaterials is the recalcitrance of these complex substrates. To use functional and structural genomics-based methods, in conjunction with classical genetics and biochemical approaches, to identify novel biocatalytic and metabolic strategies for bioenergy conversion. Dr. Westpheling serves a dual-role in BESC as the lead for Education and Outreach program for K-12 students. Website

Characterization and Modeling Univ of Georgia

Al Darvill - Formation & Modification

Dr. Al Darvill is a Regents Professor of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Plant Biology and the Director and co-founder of the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC) at the University of Georgia. He is also the Director of the Department of Energy (DOE)-funded Center for Plant and Microbial Complex Carbohydrates. He has published over 200 papers. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification Univ of Georgia

Michael Adams - Microbial

Dr. Michael Adams is a Distinguished Research Professor of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Microbiology at University of Georgia and has directed research to elucidate the novel biochemistry and microbiology of anaerobic thermophiles for more than 25 years. He has published over 300 papers in refereed journals and edited seven books. His research program seeks to eliminate the dominant obstacle to cost-effective production of biofuels, namely, the conversion of cellulosic biomass to sugars. The BESC related research focus is on evaluating the use of extremely thermophilic anaerobic microorganisms and enzymes derived from them to enhance the degradation of plant cell walls. Website

Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion Univ of Georgia

Jeffrey Bennetzen - Genomics

Dr. Jeff Bennetzen is the group leader of the Bioconversion Science & Technology group at the University of Georgia. His research interests include; Plant genome structure and evolution, the relationship between genome structure/evolution and gene function, genetic diversity and its use in under-utilized crops of the developing world, the rapid evolution of complex disease resistance loci in plants, fine structure recombinational analysis, and the coevolution of plant/microbe and plant/parasite interactions. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification Univ of Georgia

Ying Xu - Bioinformatics

Dr. Ying Xu is the Regents GRA Eminent Scholar Chair and Professor of Bioinformation and Computational Biology in the Computational Systems Biology Laboratory (CSBL) and Director of the Institute of Bioinformations at the University of Georgia. His research interests include; computational inference and modeling of biological pathways and networks, particularly for microbial organisms, cancer bioinformatics, comparative genome analyses, and protein structure prediction and modeling. Website

Characterization and Modeling Univ of Georgia

Debra Mohnen - Plant Biosynthesis

Dr. Debra Mohnen is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC) at the University of Georgia (UGA). She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Plant Biology and a member of the Plant Center at UGA. Her research program centers on the biosynthesis function and structure of plant cell wall polysaccharides. Her emphasis is on the biosynthesis of pectin, pectin function in plants, human health and on the improvement of plant cell wall structure so as to improve the efficiency of conversion of plant wall biomass to biofuels. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification Univ of Georgia

Art Ragauskas - Characterization & Pretreatment

Dr. Art Ragauskas is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Institute of Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech University. His research program involves seeking to understand and exploit innovative sustainable lignocellulosics. The multifaceted program seeks to develop new and improved applications for nature's premiere renewable biopolymers including cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Research activities are directed at developing innovative processes for converting lignocellulosics derived from innovative biomaterials and biofuels. Achieving this goal requires the pursuit of research in several fields of study including lignocellulosic fiber chemistry/physical properties, carbohydrate, lignin and extractives chemistry, nanobioterials, biotechnology, material and polymer science. Website

Characterization and Modeling Georgia Tech

Jeremy Smith - Computational Biology

Dr. Jeremy Smith is the Director of the Center for Molecular Biophysics at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the first Governor’s Chair at the University of Tennessee and an Honorary Professor, Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing at the University of Heidelberg. His research is performed and directed in high-performance computer simulation of biological macromolecules, neutron scattering in biology, the physics of proteins, bioenergetics and the analysis of structural change in proteins. Website

Characterization and Modeling ORNL

Udaya Kalluri - Biosynthesis

Dr. Udaya Kalluri Staff Scientist in Plant Systems Biology Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Her research interest includes characterization and modeling of biological phenomenon across single cell to whole plant levels using molecular biology, nanotechnology, neutron sciences and computational sciences. Other related bioenergy projects include plant imaging analysis and modeling, plant cell wall biosynthesis and remodeling, genome-enabled study of carbon biosequestration genes and molecular mechanism of auxin action and response. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification ORNL

Jerry Tuskan - Populus

Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Tuskan is an Activity Lead for the BioEnergy Science Center, Program Lead for the Laboratory Science Program at the DOE Joint Genome Institute, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tennessee, and Distinguished Scientist in the Plant Genetics Group, in the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). His research interest include genetic basis of tree growth and development with emphasis on biomass accumulations, carbon allocation, populus genomics, assembly of draft sequence, comparative genomics and functional gene identification. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification ORNL

Mark Davis - Characterization & Pretreatment

Dr. Mark Davis is the principal manager for The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Chemical and Catalyst Science Group. His research program is focused on integrating multivariate statistical data analysis and spectroscopic methods such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and pyrolysis-molecular beam mass spectrometry (PyMBMS) follow changes in plant cell wall chemistry due to transgenic modification. He has developed pyMBMS methods to rapidly analyze cell wall chemistry and teamed with plant geneticists to use the results of these analyses to identify quantitative trait loci (QTLs) in poplar and loblolly pine. We have also developed several NMR methods to characterize pyrolysis oil and liquid products from lignin. Website

Characterization and Modeling NREL

Michael Himmel - Enzymatic

Dr. Michael E. Himmel is the Manager of The Cellulase Enzyme Technology group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Dr. Himmel has contributed to 450 peer-reviewed papers and meeting abstracts, four books and 16 patents. His research program involves protein purification and characterization facilities at NREL with special emphasis on robotics systems for screening libraries derived from directed evolution technology. Website

Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion NREL

James Liao - Fuel Synthesis

Dr. James Liao is a Chancellor's Professor and Vice-Chair at UCLA Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, a member of the NanoBiotechnology and Biomaterials at the California NanoSystems Institute and a faculty member of ACCESS, Biomedical Engineering IDP and Molecular Biology IDP. His research program focuses on developing novel technologies for metabolic genomics research in microbial and human systems. It integrates molecular biology and chip-based technologies to investigate molecular recognition, signal amplification and biological regulation. Website

Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion UCLA

Rick Nelson - Switchgrass

Dr. Richard S. Nelson is a Scientist at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Oklahoma and an Adjunct faculty member at Oklahoma State University in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. His research focus is to understand how plant RNA viruses move and accumulate in their hosts, specifically studying the route by which viruses move from initially infected cells into cells within the vascular tissue for transport to other parts of the plant, gene silencing and silencing suppression in tissue. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification NOBLE

Rick Dixon - Switchgrass

Dr. Richard (Rick) Dixon is a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of North-Texas (UNT) and former Senior Vice President and Director of Plant Biology at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Oklahoma. He also holds Adjunct Professorships at Rice University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma. His research programs focus on understanding how plants produce natural products and how this understanding can be applied to generate improved plants with altered natural product profiles. A goal of his lab is to apply the understanding of lignin to reduce the recalcitrance of biofuel crops for ethanol production. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification UNT

Michael (Mike) Sanford

Dr. Michael is the Technical Manager for Cellulosic Ethanol in DuPont's Industrial Biosciences business, leading the cellulosic ethanol technology groups in Vonore, TN and Wilmington, DE. He joined DuPont in 1987 upon completing his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware. Sanford has worked in a number of technical and business roles in various DuPont businesses. He has led DuPont's cellulosic ethanol R&D effort since 2006. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification DUPONT

Charles Wyman - Characterization & Pretreatment

Dr. Charles Wyman is a Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) and a Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of California - Riverside. His research program focus is to improve the understanding of biomass fractionation, pretreatment, and cellulose hydrolysis to support applications and advances in biomass conversion technologies for production of low cost commodity products and to develop advanced technologies that will dramatically reduce the cost of production. Website

Characterization and Modeling UC Riverside

Lee Lynd - Microbial

Dr. Lee Lynd is a Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering Design, Adjunct Professor of Biological Sciences, Professor Extraordinary of Microbiology of Stellenbosch University South Africa, and Director and Chief Scientific Officer of Mascoma Corporation. Dr. Lynd holds 6 patents and is the author of more than 100 professional publications. His research programs focus on the utilization of plant biomass for production of energy and his contributions span the science, technology and policy domains and include leading research on fundamental and biotechnological aspects of microbial cellulose utilization. Website

Characterization and Modeling Dartmouth

Neal Stewart - Switchgrass

Dr. Charles Neal Stewart, Jr. is a professor & Ivan Racheff Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee, Adjunct Professor at the University Of Tennessee Department Of Food Science and Technology and an Adjunct Senior Research Scientist and Professor at the University of Georgia Department of Crop and Soil Science. His research programs; plant biology, genomics and biotechnology to address agricultural and environmental problems including plant-based bioenergy, phytosensor research and development, gene flow for the prevention from transgenic plants and weed genomics. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification Univ of Tennessee

Steve Difazio - Populus

Dr. Steve Difazio is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and the Director of the Genomics Core Facility at West Virginia University. His research program examines genomics to gain enhanced understanding of natural ecosystems as part of the Populus genome sequencing project and enhancing the carbon sequestration potential of Populus by identifying genes involved in allocation and partitioning of carbon. His expertise involves, plant genomics, molecular ecology, plant population genetics and biotechnology risk assessment. Website

Biomass Formation and Modification Univ of West Virginia

Robert Kelly - Microbial

Dr. Robert (Bob) Kelly is the Alcoa Professor of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the Director of both the NCSU Biotechnology Program and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Graduate Student Biotechnology Training Program. Dr. Kelly holds 10 patents and is the author of more than 100 professional publications. His research program involves extremophiles. Newly discovered organisms whose enzymes can be used to stimulate gas and oil recovery processes, improve the production of pharmaceuticals, catalyze essential reactions in recombinant DNA technology and create new opportunities in the production of foods and sweeteners. Website

Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion NCSU

John Brady - Enzymatic

Dr. John Brady is a Professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University. His research programs focus is on the dynamics and hydration of biopolymers, and the relationship between structure, conformation, and function in biological systems, and hydration of carbohydrates. His expertise covers molecular biophysics, molecular mechanics of carbohydrates, hydration of biological molecules, structure and function of proteins and structure activity relationships in cellulases. Website

Biomass Deconstruction and Conversion Cornell

Brian Davison - Characterization & Data Management

Dr. Davison is the Science Coordinator for the BioEnergy Science Center, Chief Scientist for Systems Biology and Biotechnology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Tennessee. He has managed individual and multi-institutional projects. He has authored over 100 publications and six patents, including one of the first reports that genetic variation in poplar composition can affect hydrolysis. Website

Characterization and Modeling ORNL

David Ussery - Characterization & Data Management

Dr. David Ussery is a bioinformatics group leader in the Bioscience Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Prior to joining BESC in 2013, Dr. Ussery was at the Center for Biological Sequence Analysis at the Technical University of Denmark. Dr. Ussery will lead the Information Management activity for BESC.

Characterization and Modeling ORNL

POST DOC AND STUDENT COUNCIL

Amandeep Sanga

Amandeep Sangha is a Postdoctoral Research Associate under the supervision of Prof. Jeremy C. Smith at UT/ORNL Center for Molecular Biophysics, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She received her Ph.D. in Computational Biophysics from Boston University with extensive experience in molecular dynamics studies of conformational dynamics, folding and misfolding mechanisms of proteins and enhanced sampling algorithms. Her current research involves molecular modeling of radical condensation reactions involved in lignin formation and binding affinities of monolignols to peroxidase enzymes using both quantum and classical simulations.