Targets Council

The Targets Council brings together a select group of strategic advisors from industry and academics in the areas of lubricants, fuels, specialty chemicals and polymers—areas the most fertile for infiltration of new biologically-produced molecules—to advise JBEI on the selection of target molecules that perform better in or exhibit properties tailored to specific applications, to meet downstream needs, and that have the greatest probability of being commercialized and therefore have impact both on society and on reducing the ultimate cost of biofuels.

 Members of the Targets Council

Aaron Socha

Aaron Socha’s research is focused on applied chemistry of natural products. As a graduate student, he discovered several antibiotics from marine microbes, and determined their efficacy against clinically-relevant pathogens. As an NSF postdoctoral fellow, he researched microbial lignin catabolism and lipid anabolism, and developed novel catalytic and spectroscopic methods for biodiesel fuel. Aaron has served on the faculty at Bronx Community College – City University of New York (CUNY), and as the Director of the CUNY Center for Sustainable Energy. He currently teaches at Queens University, in Charlotte, NC, and leads an NSF Advanced Technical Education Project to develop curriculum on biofuels and bioproducts. He is a co-founder of Illium Technologies, a Berkeley Lab start-up focused on commercialization of bio-based ionic liquids.

Brett Helms

Brett Helms is a Staff Scientist at Berkeley Lab. His expertise spans organic and polymer chemistry, from synthesis to applications. He also brings lab-to-market expertise in polymers for advanced technologies, e.g., spinning out from his research program Sepion Technologies, a company that commercializes selective membranes for clean energy applications. Prior to beginning his independent career, he completed his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, under the direction of Prof. Jean M. J. Fréchet (2000) and postdoctoral work at the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven with E.(Bert) W. Meijer (2007).

Edward W. Castner

Ed Castner is a Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. His research program combines experimental and computational approaches in chemical physics and physical chemistry to understanding the structure, dynamics and interactions of ionic liquids with key target molecules. Ed also serves as an Associate Editor for The Journal of Chemical Physics. Prior to joining Rutgers in 1998, Ed was a staff scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory between 1991 and 1998, and a senior scientist at the Quantronix Laser Corporation in 1990-91. He studied chemistry and mathematics at the University of Rochester, and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982, followed by M.S. and Ph. D. degrees from the University of Chicago in 1984 and 1988. He completed postdoctoral research fellowships supported by the NSF and NATO at the University of Groningen during 1988-1990..

Kenji Takahashi

Kenji Takahashi is a Research Professor of Institute of Science and Engineering at Kanazawa University. He is also working as a Research Promotion Group Leader of Advancement of COI Research at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology. His research expertise is in the area of chemical engineering, reaction kinetics, spectroscopy, and material science. He is now working on biomass conversion into useful material using ionic liquids. He received his A.B. in Chemical Engineering from Hokkaido University in 1985, and his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Hokkaido University. He was a visiting scientist in Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago from 1995 to 2001.

Lalitha Subramanian

Lalitha Subramanian is the Chief Scientific Officer and VP at Scienomics. She has been a leading architect in applying integrated computational materials science technology (e.g.; MAPS software) to solve business critical challenges in Chemical, Fine Chemical, Energy, Aerospace, Automotive, Personal Care, and Pharmaceutical industry segments all over the world. While most of her projects have been proprietary, she has numerous publications including a book she co-authored. She has an active collaboration with Argonne National Lab and has participated in Council in Competitiveness’ HPC initiative. She received her Ph. D. in Chemistry at IIT Madras and after her post-doctoral work at Cornell University and at University of Arizona, she has dedicated her work to computer-aided rational materials design by leveraging simulations and informatics.


Risha Bond

Martin Schoonen is Associate Laboratory Director at Brookhaven National Laboratory responsible for Environmental Science, Biology, Nuclear Science and Technology and Nonproliferation. He is on leave from Stony Brook University where he founded a Sustainability Studies Program and directed a Geochemistry research group focused on mineral reactivity and water quality.

Robin Rogers

Robin D. Rogers is a Research Professor at The University of Alabama and President, Owner, and Founder of 525 Solutions, Inc., in Tuscaloosa, AL USA. He obtained both his B.S. in Chemistry (1978, Summa Cum Laude) and his Ph.D. in Chemistry (1982) from The University of Alabama. Rogers is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the American Chemical Society journal Crystal Growth & Design and is an advisory board member to eight other international peer-reviewed journals. Robin was named in the 2014 and 2015 Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers Lists ranking among the top 1% most cited in chemistry. His research interests cover the use of ionic liquids and Green Chemistry for sustainable technology through innovation. With the recent founding of Mari Signum, Ltd., he has embarked on an effort to commercialize the use of biorenewable polymers such as chitin in an effort to eliminate the need for synthetic plastics.

Roger Avakian

Roger Avakian graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with a Bachelor’s of Science degree with Honors in Chemistry in 1973. Roger has over forty three years’ experience in thermoplastics and thermosets, composites, additives and elastomers. He has been at PolyOne for eighteen years and was PolyOne’s first CTO. Prior to that Roger spent twenty years at GE Plastics. He currently has 85 issued US patents. His current research interests are in barrier technologies, bio-materials and non-halogen flame retardant technologies.

Roland Kalb

Roland Kalb is an entrepreneur in technical application and manufacture of ionic liquids and has been working in this field for almost 20 years. In 2003 he invented an industrial process for the halide free production of ionic liquids, today known as the CBILS®-process, and founded proionic GmbH in 2004. Today proionic GmbH produces ionic liquid volumes in the multi-ton scale, making it one of the three globally leading companies in manufacturing and application of ionic liquids. Roland graduated in Chemistry (Total Synthesis of Natural Products) at the University of Vienna and received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Rostock, in the field of Physical Chemistry. He is a member of multiple Technical Advisory Boards. He holds more than 50 pending patents and more than 50 issued international patents and is among the top inventors in the field of ionic liquids.

Wataru Mizunashi

Wataru Mizunashi is the General Manager of Biotechnology at Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation. His research focus is not only bio-based chemicals but also healthcare and environmental products and solutions. He has also worked for the Council on Competitiveness-Nippon, Council for Science Technology and Innovation, and other institutions to formulate the strategy of Bioindustry in Japan.