Chemistry Seminar: Professor Michaela TerAvest, Michigan State University

Friday, October 11, 2019 at 4:00pm

A. Paul Schaap Science Center, 1000
35 East 12th Street, Holland, MI 49423-3605

Beckman Scholar Invited Speaker - Michaela TerAvest
Engineering Bacteria to Convert Electricity and Carbon Dioxide into Sustainable Fuels

Abstract: Microbial electrosynthesis is an emerging technology in which microbes accept electrons from an electrode and use them to perform useful reduction reactions, including carbon dioxide fixation. Microbial electrosynthesis is a potentially transformative technology, however, understanding the route of electrons into the cell and controlling how they are used have been perennial challenges. To address these challenges, we developed a novel inward electron transfer pathway in the bacterium Shewanella oneidensis. By adding two non-native genes, we developed a system that allows S. oneidensis to accept electrons from a cathode and reduce acetoin to 2,3-butanediol, using light as a supplemental energy source. Multiple lines of evidence indicate proper functioning of the engineered electrosynthesis system: electron flux from the cathode is influenced by light and acetoin availability; and 2,3-butanediol production is highest when both light and an electrode are present. This system represents a promising genetically engineered microbial electrosynthesis platform and will enable a new focus on synthesis of specific compounds using electrical energy. We are currently working to understand the system more thoroughly, increase performance, and connect it with an engineered carbon fixation pathway.

Biography: Michaela TerAvest is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Michigan State University. Michaela grew up in Holland, Michigan and attended Michigan State University for an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She then earned MS and PhD degrees in Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University and spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Her research has always revolved around renewable energy. As a graduate student, she studied microbial fuel cells and a specific bacterium, Shewanella oneidensis, that is capable of generating electricity. As a postdoc, she focused on better understanding Shewanella via synthetic biology and helped to transfer its electricity-generating pathway to E. coli. In her independent lab, she is bringing together her expertise in engineering bacterial cells and electrochemical cells to develop a new biotechnologies. The main focus of the lab is developing microbial electrosynthesis, a technology that allows simultaneous electricity storage, chemical production, and carbon dioxide fixation.

Event Type

Academics, Natural & Applied Sciences Division, Chemistry and Biochemistry

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