Bergstrom Group Research
The Bergstrom research group are conducting research in three areas relating to the Biofuels Research Laboratory: (A) epidemiology and sustainable management of diseases affecting bioenergy crops, (B) lignocellulose degrading capabilities of plant pathogens, and (C) evaluation and improvement of plant pathogenic filamentous fungi for biotechnological applications.
Modern molecular biology can be used to generate new plants and algae that can be used directly to make specialty enzymes or medicines such as in biomolecular farming or that can be used in feedstocks to promote processing or increase the value of residue materials. We also are working on projects to improve and enable biofuel production from aquatic microalgae.
Above is a picture of New Visions high school student Klaske Schukken using the BRL's FT-NIR machine to analyze warm season grass samples for a research project that she conducted with the Forage Project in spring, 2010.
The goal of the pretreatment is to increase the available surface area of cellulose to the enzymes but also to extract lignin, which can inhibit the enzymatic hydrolysis.
Computational models of metabolic, transcriptional regulatory, and signaling networks can predict environmental or genetic parameters which can be manipulated to achieve optimal fermentation performance.
Composting and Molecular Ecology
Although composting is an ancient method, it has evolved as a useful method for the reduction of municipal solid wastes and for the destruction of potentially hazardous pathogenic organisms. Composting of the agricultural wastes produces a biologically stable humic substance that may be used as a soil additive, thereby efficiently reducing the amount of waste generated.
Our capability for fermentation experiments, in conjunction with the modeling efforts of our systems biology research, allows us to develop strategies to optimize media supplementation and organism selection to improve the performance of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the challenging environment of cellulosic fermentation.
Nanoscale Enzyme Imaging
Fluorescence emission enhances the detection and spatial and temporal resolution of binding and molecular displacements. In this area, we are exploiting the advantages offered by fluorescence spectroscopy to study the interactions between cellulases and cellulose fibrils at the most fundamental scales spanning the micro to nanometer range.