Laboratory of Environmental Bioengineering
The Porter School of Environmental Studies

Our goal is to generative fundamental knowledge on biological systems organization and function, and to apply this knowledge to develop technologies that address critical challenges in energy generation and health.

Our laboratory conducts research in a wide range of research subjects including:

BioEnergy systems

Bioenergy systems efficiency analysis

We develop models to analyze the efficiency and net energy balance of biorefineries.

Our current projects include:

Bioelectricity and bioenergy

We are interested in all aspects of bioelectricity and bioenergy starting from electric fishes, carbon fluxes, bio-batteries and energy molecules metabolism.

Multiorganism metabolism and fermentation, synthetic ecology

The majority of current fermentation research focuses on the optimization of single organism metabolic networks with an aim to maximize a single product production. While this approach has led to important advances in the fermentation field, further increase in the system productivity and fermentation of multiple products simultaneously requires multiple changes within metabolic network of a single organism. These multiple changes are a complex task, as changing multiple genes in the organisms could have numerous, currently unpredictable consequences on organism survival and functionality. Therefore, we proposed to simplify this process by performing a multi-step fermentation by various organisms, when each of the organisms is optimized towards specific part of the processes by as few alternations as possible.

Our current projects include:

Biological Systems

Epiphytic microbiome

All living surfaces (skin, leaves, macroalgae) are covered by multiple microorganisms. We study the self-organization of epiphytic microbiome and of impact of microenvironment on the symbiotic relations between multicellular organisms and their epiphytic microbiome. We develop new tools for functional characterization of the epiphytic microbiome with the goal to apply synthetic microbiome in biotechnology and medical applications.

Our current projects include:

Scarless organ regeneration

Hypertrophic scarring (HTS) is a major clinical problem in burn and trauma patients that comes with a $12 billion economic burden, in the US alone. HTS formation is extremely complex and include the interplay of growth factors, proteolytic enzymes, angiogenesis factors, and fibrogenic factors, which stimulate the increased deposition of extracellular matrix by myofibroblasts. Although several studies have identified genomic, epigenetic and environmental factors that correlate with the formation of HTS, the exact molecular mechanisms that induce scar tissue formation instead of normal tissue are not known. This knowledge gap has resulted in empirical therapies with limited clinical success. We have recently demonstrated that skin ablated by non-thermal non-thermal irreversible electroporation (IRE) regenerates without scars. Our long-term goal is to understand the scarless tissue regeneration process and to use this knowledge to develop multi-target therapies to reduce HTS.

Our current projects include:


Pulsed electric fields (PEF) for energy efficient processes

Traditional biomass processing technologies use heat for drying and thermochemical processes for biomass decomposition. Those processing technologies are extremely energy intensive. Emerging PEF-assisted dewatering enables an energy efficient water extraction from wet biomass, saving up to 50% of the consumed energy. Non-thermal PEF increases biological membrane permeabilization by a process known as electroporation. We propose the PEF pretreatment combined with mechanical press for energy efficient process for biomass drying.

Our current projects include:

Microfluidic devices for environmental applications

Using the power of microfluidic devices, we develop platform technologies that allow single cell identification and functional studies. The goal of these studies is to understand the role of individual members of complex biological system communities in the system function.

Our current projects include:

Low cost devices for low-income countries

We are working on low-cost devices for energy generation, water and food preservation in remote, rural location in low-income communities. The goal of these projects is to develop platform technologies that can be rapidly translated to the real-world settings and benefit multiple communities world-wide.

Our current projects include: