Dr. Yair Shachar-Hill (Fearless leader)
In our lab we are interested in understanding the flows of material and energy through metabolic networks in plants and microbes. My background in biophysical chemistry is reflected in the spectroscopic and computer - aided - modelling approaches we use to quantify transport and biochemical reaction fluxes through these networks. The biological systems we study vary from single-celled oil producing algae to developing seeds of crop plants to the nutrient exchange between plants and symbiotic microbes. These systems are of both basic biological interest (for example: How are nutritional mutualisms sustained? What is the function in algae of accumulating storage compounds under stress? What is the basis of metabolic (in)efficiency in seed storage biosynthesis?) and potential practical value (improving biofuel production by plants and algae, increasing productivity in low-input agriculture, increasing oilseed productivity and value).
Dr. Mike Pollard (Research associate professor)
My interests span the chemistry and biochemistry of plant natural products and lipids, with emphasis on vegetable oil (triacylglycerol) and the lipid polymers cutin and suberin. Although officially retired, I am still in the lab studying methods to improve lipid acyl flux maps in seeds.
Dr. Yuan Xu (Post-doctoral research associate)
The overall goal of my project is to substantially increase the yield of Camelina sativa by understanding and improving carbon fixation and utilization in seed production. My research interest is to establish reliable tools for metabolite analysis and label quantification so that we can better understand photosynthetic carbon metabolism in leaves of wild type and transgenic Camelina plants.
DR. na pang (Research associate)
The research area I’m interested in is to understand lipid metabolism of Camelina sativa and microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii through tracking and analyzing kinetic metabolic flux with isotopic labeling. My goal is to establish reliable models of lipid metabolism with better understanding of lipid flux road and increase lipid yield in wild type and transgenic Camelina and Chlamydomonas. I enjoy anime, gym workout and outdoor activities like dancing, hiking, skiing, and road cycling after work.
Shawna Rowe (Ph.D. student)
I am interested in the evolution of symbiotic associations and the exchange of resources between intimately associated symbionts. I study nutrient exchange between the model legume Medicago truncatula and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). AMF are an exciting system to study due to their ability to mobilize nutrients from soil environments and protect against some environmental stressors. AMF associate with the vast majority of terrestrial plants and improving our understanding of this system could prove to be widely beneficial. Specifically, I hope to develop an improved understanding of nitrogen uptake and transfer in this symbiotic association. I also enjoy teaching and volunteering my time with the graduate union in East Lansing. When I am not working, I enjoy hiking, reading, and traveling.
Danielle Young (Ph.D. student)
I am interested in the lipid metabolism of a model microalga called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Algae can accumulate oil under stress conditions, primarily the neutral lipid TAG, and this oil can be converted into biodiesel fuel. There is much interest in unraveling the oil biosynthesis pathways of algae, and my research focuses on elucidating the lipids that contribute to TAG synthesis during nutrient stress, as well as the fate of the carbon in TAG during recovery from nutrient stress. I use isotopic labeling and physiological measurements to trace the fluxes of lipids in Chlamydomonas under nutrient stress and nutrient recovery to probe these questions. When I'm not in the lab, I enjoy playing board games and occasionally volleyball.
Joshua Kaste (Ph.D. student)
My research centers on improving our ability to describe and predict the flow of energy and matter through photosynthetic genome-scale metabolic networks using computational techniques like Flux Balance Analysis (FBA). In particular, I aim to develop improved methods for the construction and analysis of multi-tissue metabolic models that allow us to ask and answer questions about resource allocation in plants, with a special focus on the oilseed crop Camelina sativa. The ultimate goal of this work is to discover promising new targets for the biotechnological engineering of C. sativa and other plant systems to address challenges around health and sustainability. In addition to my primary research project, I have collaborated with other labs on the application of metabolic modeling techniques to identify gene knockout strategies to accomplish specific bioengineering objectives, as well as on the modeling and quantitative analysis of metabolite labeling data to probe the limitations of current models of photosynthetic biochemistry.
In my free time, I enjoy reading and thinking about other areas of science, spending time with my pets, and playing board games and video games. (Publications)
Peter Koroma (Undergraduate researcher)
My name is Peter Koroma, an international student from Sierra Leone, West Africa. I am a sophomore majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I have an endearment for everything science, with a vision of becoming a neurosurgeon. I am currently exploring the research world, working on the physiology and biochemistry of the Camelina sativa plant. Besides science, I also enjoy tutoring and sports; specifically watching and playing basketball, soccer and football.