Discovery LearningCU-Boulder University of Colorado at Boulder
Discovery Learning Program CU College of Engineering

The Molecular Biotechnology Laboratory is devoted to research and education on new bioprocesses that have applications in biorefining, biofuels, and human health. Work done in the laboratory utilizes traditional and proprietary tools to engineer more efficient fermentation of biomass to biofuels, production of valuable chemicals, and to discover how new antibiotics affect bacteria such as E. coli and P. aeruginosa.  The laboratory also develops novel genome-wide biotechnology for use in future applications.

current projects

The following projects use genomics to engineer selections for strain development:

Engineering Organic Acid Tolerance of E. Coli ― The engineering of complex phenotypes, characterized by sensitivity to multiple genetic and environmental factors, is essential to the development of optimal biofuels and biorefining processes. This project demonstrates a rapid and efficient approach for decomposing and then re-engineering a complex and previously uncharacterized phenotype—an approach we anticipate can be generalized.

Multiplex Recombineering ― Microbes are useful as biocatalysts for the production of commodity chemicals or fuels, but industrial conditions can stress these organisms resulting in reduced production. Engineering stress tolerance in these strains may be difficult because multiple changes in gene expression are required. Multiplex recombineering is a potential new way to generate a library of mutants with multigenic changes in expression. (Joe Warner)

Engineering Furfural Tolerance ― Furfural is a microbial inhibitor formed during the pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass.  This project aims to use two genome-wide tools that were developed in the lab―Scalar Analysis of Library Enrichments and disruptional mutagenesis―to determine the toxic effects of furfural to E. coli. (Tirzah Mills)

girl in yellow shirt and goggles filters cultures

Graduate student Sara Mesfin Hunegnaw performs sand column filtration of biofilm cultures as part of a project to identify and manipulate the cellular control mechanisms for biofilm formation in E.coli, and improve biofuels production.

"Working in a biotechnology laboratory allows you to work at the cutting edge of research on projects that have importance to many aspects of our daily life. We work to make renewable energy environmentally and economically viable."

— Nicholas Sandoval, PhD student
in chemical and biological engineering


Ryan Gill