Spring 2017 Undergraduate Poster Session Held at JBEI

From left: Undergraduates students Nikit Paterl and Linda Xu (Fuels Synthesis Division)

JBEI’s spring 2017 undergraduate poster session and celebration took place on May 5. The participant undergraduate students are currently enrolled at UC Berkeley and were given the opportunity to work in lab projects related to JBEI’s research program.

As part of their internship at JBEI they had to either present a poster or oral presentation during their first semester and once every subsequent year in order to receive an “A” grade in their research course.

This year 21 posters were presented and the students did a great job in making the link between their internship research goals and the industry’s challenges.

From left: Mentor Laure Leynaud-Kieffer with undergraduate Irene Kim (Deconstruction Division)

The poster session included a competition. Maya Ramamurthy (Deconstruction Division) won Best Poster Design and Yvette Tran (Fuels Synthesis Division) won Best Verbal Presentation.

To learn more about research experiences at JBEI visit this page.

From left: Maya Ramamurthy, Deconstruction Division, winner of Best Poster Design and Yvette Tran, Fuels Synthesis Division, winner of Best Verbal Presentation.




JBEI Participates at East Bay STEM Career Awareness Day

JBEI researchers and staff participated at the annual East Bay STEM Career Awareness Day on April 27, 2017, at Wareham Development’s Aquatic Park Center in West Berkeley, home to Berkeley Lab’s Biosciences Operations @ Berkeley and several Area research groups.

The event is led by Cal State University East Bay’s Institute for STEM Education in partnership with local businesses and organizations, and is aimed at providing insight into potential STEM careers and educational opportunities in the region. Three hundred high school students from Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Richmond engaged in activities around this year’s theme:, “What problem(s) are you trying to solve?” Students had the opportunity to network with a variety of STEM professionals during tours, a working lunch and exhibitor tabling.

A team from JBEI that included Amin Zargar, Irina Silva, Jessica Trinh, Morgann Reilly, Timothy Lease and Veronica Benites, participated at the networking lunch. They worked with the students to map out their own career paths from high school aspirations to their current jobs and discussed what it means to be a professional.  During the exhibitor tabling the JBEI team showcased the institute’s advanced biofuels pipeline and shared career advice and internship resources.

New Science Study Provides Further Insight Into Plant Cell Division

Joint BioEnergy Institute Postdoctoral Researcher Estelle Schaefer was the lead author of a new study on plant cell division orientation released by Science on April XX. The study developed while Schaefer was affiliated with the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) in France and provides further insight into the actual mechanics of cell division in plants.

One phase of the cell division cycle is called mitosis, which is when replicated chromosomes are separated into two new nuclei. Mitosis occurs in several steps and in plants includes preprophase. Schaefer’s work focused on the preprophase band of microtubules, intracellular structures responsible for various movements within cells, and showed that this band controls the robustness of cell division orientation and consequent plant development.

Since completing her PhD three years ago, Schaefer has worked in the field of cell wall biosynthesis with Henrik Scheller (Environmental Genomics & Systems Biology Division) at JBEI. She will soon transition to the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) where she will work with John Vogel to study the interactions between Brachypodium roots and microbes of the rhizosphere.

US researchers discover enzyme to help turn biofuel waste ‘into something useful’, Biofuels International

Biofuels International covered the discovery of a new enzyme at JBEI that helps convert aryl compounds, a common waste product from industrial and agricultural practices, into something of value.

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Could This Enzyme Help Turn Biofuel Waste into Something Useful?

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Sandia National Laboratories working at JBEI have resolved the protein structure of the enzyme LigM, which is utilized by the soil bacterium Sphingomonas to metabolize aryl compounds derived from lignin, the stiff, organic material that gives plants their structure. Their work is reported in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more

JBEI Paper Awarded ‘Publication of the Year’ by the Journal of Biological Engineering

JBEI publication “End-to-end automated microfluidic platform for synthetic biology: from design to functional analysis” published in 2016 has been selected as the Journal of Biological Engineering Publication of the Year. Gregory Linshiz, former Post-Doctoral Researcher at JBEI and Nathan Hillson, JBEI’s Director of Synthetic Biology Informatics, conceived the project that served as the basis of this paper. In the paper the authors present a programmable, multipurpose microfluidic platform and associated software and apply the platform to major steps of the synthetic biology research cycle: design, construction, testing, and analysis. The formal announcement of the award will be made at this year’s Annual Meeting of Institute of Biological Engineering (March 30 – April 1, in Salt Lake City, UT).

Women’s History Month: Breaking Away from the Mold to Establish Your Own Success Path

Women’s History Month is an annual declared month, celebrated in March that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. This year we celebrate the work and achievements of JBEI research scientist, Ee-Been Goh. A talented molecular biologist, Ee-Been has made significant contributions to the development of new biofuels at JBEI in the area of metabolic pathway for diesel-range methyl ketones. In addition to her impressive technical achievements, Ee-Been is widely recognized at JBEI as being an exemplary mentor and contributor to JBEI’s education and outreach efforts, namely to the iCLEM program.

Who has inspired you? And why?
Scientifically, I will have to say my undergraduate advisor, Prof. (Emeritus) Julian E. Davies. Even though he was a highly renowned professor in the field of antibiotic resistance research, he took a chance on me – someone who did not have the best grades or have any research experience and gave me my first opportunity at independent research. It was Julian’s mentorship that really inspired me to pursue a career in scientific research. Julian’s enthusiasm and passion in science was evident because regardless of whether I presented him with negative or positive results, it was always interesting to him. He taught me that if we process the information properly, you could always learn something from your experiments regardless of the outcome – an outlook that we can always use in science or life!

At a personal level, it would be my grandmother. From sunrise to sunset, she would constantly be working, doing house chores, baking something delicious for us, or sewing new clothes for us and never spending much time idle. What amazes me the most is that she would often put together an ingenious device or apparatus to expedite her work. She never had an education but it never stopped her from being creative or industrious. She instilled a strong working habit in me and taught me to always look to improve things in our lives.

Ee-Been Goh works with summer intern Joshua Borrajo (Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab)

What was your most proud moment? And why?
My most proud moment would be getting accepted into the Ph.D. program at UC Davis because I was not the best student in primary and secondary school (i.e. elementary and junior high). I was doing so badly that teachers had to call my parents to let them know of my struggles in school and even had tutors to help me pass my classes. Many people did not expect that I would go far with my education, so graduating from college was considered a miracle by my family. I surprised them when I decided to seek more education after college. Sometimes we can get pigeon-holed by who we are and where we came from and it felt like a major accomplishment on my part to be able to break away from that mold and establish my own path to success.

What do you do to mentor others?
I like to have students intern with me in the lab and give them an opportunity to experience lab research. My main goal is to try to have them learn as much as they can during their internship and not just assist me with my own research. That way they can find out for themselves if they are truly passionate about science and not be influenced by any other factors. More importantly, I try to set a good example by making sure that my positive work habits and attitude inspires the people (and especially women) around me.

JBEI and ABPDU Raise Food and Funds for Local Food Bank

food_bank_logo_colorDuring their annual food drive, JBEI and ABPDU raised food and funds for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. A total of $2514 was raised in monetary contributions for the Virtual Food Drive. A friendly competition was promoted between ABPDU and JBEI’s Divisions to see which group could raise more pounds of food. JBEI’s Operations staff collected the highest number of pounds of food this year. This initiative helped raise awareness of food insecurity of children, adults and seniors in the Alameda County. To learn more about how you can help visit http://www.accfb.org/.

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Enzyme shows promise for efficiently converting plant biomass to biofuels, Phys.org

Phys.org covered a finding from JBEI’s Microbial Communities Group on how an enzyme, from the bacterial glycoside hydrolase family 12, plays an unexpectedly important role in breaking down a hard-to-degrade crystalline form of cellulose.

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