Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is JBEI’s highest-level internal governing body, reflecting the shared governance structure of the institute with executive-level representation from the partner national laboratories and institutions.

Final authority for the following areas rest with the BOD: budget and resource allocation and oversight; program review; researcher affiliation; resolution of major scientific, operational, and/or policy disputes; and appointment of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The BOD reviews and approves the overall budget and research plan annually.

Members of the Board of Directors

Mahdi M. Abu-Omar, Ph.D.

University of California, Santa Barbara

Mahdi M. Abu-Omar holds the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Green Chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). His research accomplishments include selective conversion of biomass lignin to biophenols and the creation of renewable plastics based on lignin. He has authored/co-authored nearly 200 original research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, supervised more than 40 Ph.D. students, and held faculty appointments at Purdue University and UCLA. Mahdi is the Founder of Spero Renewables, a clean tech company that provides cost-effective and renewable substitutes to petrochemicals. Mahdi was elected Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2012 and was a Senior Fulbright Fellow at the Weismann Institute in 2008. Dr. Abu-Omar completed a Ph.D. from Iowa State University (1996) and a postdoc from Caltech.

Carol Burns, Ph.D.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Carol Burns was recently appointed Deputy Director for Research and Chief Research Officer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Burns joins the Berkeley Lab with deep experience in the DOE national laboratory system. In this role, she is responsible for the development, implementation, and stewardship of Berkeley Lab’s research enterprise, and serves as the Lab’s chief research liaison with the Office of Science, the University, the other national labs, and other key partners.

Carol brings more than 25 years of scientific leadership experience in a national laboratory setting, most recently serving as executive officer to the Deputy Director for Science, Technology, and Engineering at Los Alamos National Laboratory, assisting in oversight of line and DOE program organizations, as well as coordinating the integration of science and technology strategy, as well as associated investments and stewardship mechanisms. 

Burns is a recognized expert in f-element and radiochemistry with more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and invited book chapters, and has served on a number of editorial boards, review boards, and advisory panels. She pioneered the development of an entirely new class of high-valent uranium compounds containing metal-ligand multiple bonds, contributing substantially to the understanding of the electronic structure of the early actinides. She is the recipient of a number of awards for scientific achievement and leadership, most recently the American Chemical Society’s Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal, recognizing distinguished service in chemistry by women chemists. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

She has extensive experience in the systems enabling the research enterprise in the national laboratories, including a deep commitment to workforce development and diversity in STEM. She has experience in science policy at the national level, having served as a senior policy analyst in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Burns received her B.A. in Chemistry from Rice University, and her Ph,D, in Chemistry as a Hertz Foundation Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley.

Cristina Davis, Ph.D.

University of California, Davis

Cristina Davis is the Associate Vice Chancellor of Interdisciplinary Research and Strategic Initiatives in the Office of Research.

Davis has 20 years of experience working with multidisciplinary research teams in the areas of chemical sensing to tackle fundamental problems and develop niche application areas. She has been an advocate for interdisciplinary research support at a national level for many years — with federal, state and local entities. Defense, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, among others.

In addition to her research accomplishments, Davis has considerable experience dealing with intellectual property, including patents and copyright code software coding. She is the inventor on 13 issued patents, with many more pending, and has played an instrumental role in the formation of three startups over her career. Davis has authored and co-authored numerous scientific papers and published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles in high-impact journals and top-tier conferences.

Davis has a B.S. in mathematics and biology (double major) from Duke University and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Davis joined UC Davis in 2005 as an assistant professor.

Matthew Gilliham, Ph.D.

University of Adelaide

Matthew is Director of the Waite Research Institute, the University of Adelaide’s flagship for agriculture, food and wine innovation. His role is to stimulate and support research initiatives across the spectrum of agricultural research (from policy and economics, to animal, soil, crop and food sciences).

As Professor of Crop Molecular Physiology, he has a track record of notable discoveries in plant nutrition, stress signalling (particularly GABA), and salt and drought tolerance, with many of these discoveries deployed into improved crops for agriculture.

In recent years he has turned his attention to optimising plants for extra-terrestrial and controlled environments, which is required to enable long-term space habitation, and to improve sustainability outcomes on Earth. He is leading a large multi-national collaboration between academia, government, and industry to build international capability in Plants4Space.

Matthew is a current Clarivate Highly Cited Scientist, and he and his group have received honours, awards and funding which include SA Tall Poppy Awards, ARC Future Fellowships, Training Centres, and Centres of Excellence. Matthew is also convenor for the Adapting to abiotic stress and climate change special interest group of the Society for Experimental Biology, UK, and recent member of the South Australian Premier’s Science and Innovation Council.

Brent D. Hales, Ph.D.

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

Brent Hales serves as the Associate Vice President for the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources. He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Brigham Young University, a master’s degree in sociology from Middle Tennessee State University, and a Ph.D. in rural sociology from Iowa State University. Dr. Hales previously served as an Associate Dean, College of Agricultural Sciences and Director of Penn State Extension.

His primary area of research is holistic community and economic development and entrepreneurship. He is the founder the Southern Entrepreneurship Program, which teaches entrepreneurship skills to high school and community college students, and to displaced workers throughout the U.S. and across the globe. He is also a past president of the Community Development Society.

Kristen Kulp, Ph.D.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Kristen Kulp is the division leader for the Biosciences and Biotechnology Division and the director of the LLNL Institutional Postdoc Program. She joined LLNL as a postdoctoral researcher to explore the role of dietary carcinogens in the development of human cancer. She has also worked on developing and applying advanced mass spectrometry techniques for determining disease effects on single cells and tissues. She currently works with a team of biologists and engineers who are developing tissue-based assay systems that model human physiological response. As the director of the Institutional Postdoc Program, Kulp leads LLNL’s efforts to create an exciting and productive environment to train young scientists for successful research careers. Kulp’s research interests include microphysiological systems, toxicology, and carcinogenesis.

Surya K. Mallapragada, Ph.D

Iowa State University

Surya K. Mallapragada is Anson Marston Distinguished Professor and Carol Vohs Johnson Chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and the Associate Vice President for Research at Iowa State University (ISU). She received her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from IIT Bombay and a PhD from Purdue University. She served as Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at ISU from 2009-13. She is also currently a Senior Scientist and has served as Program Director of Materials Chemistry and Biomolecular Materials (2004-08) at the Ames Laboratory, a US Department of Energy national laboratory in Ames, IA. Her research interests are in the area of polymeric nanobiomaterials, specifically in drug/gene and vaccine delivery and neural tissue engineering, and in the area of bioinspired materials.

Stephen Mayfield, Ph.D.

University of California, San Diego

Stephen Mayfield is the Director of UC San Diego’s California Center for Algae Biotechnology and Co-director of Food & Fuel for the 21st Century. Mayfield obtained Bachelor of Science degrees in Biochemistry and in Plant Biology from California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo in 1979, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984. From 1984 to 1987 Steve was an NIH post-doctoral fellow at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. In 1987 he joined the Scripps Research Institute and become a professor and associate dean of the graduate school before leaving to join UC San Diego in 2009.

Andrew McIlroy, Ph.D.

Sandia National Laboratories

As Associate Labs Director for Integrated Security Solutions, Andrew McIlroy provides leadership and management direction for Sandia’s California Laboratory and the Energy and Earth Systems Center, which includes staff in New Mexico, Texas, and Alaska. He also has primary responsibility for Sandia’s Energy and Homeland Security mission portfolio, as well as for California weapon systems and component engineering. He has a B.S. in Chemistry with honors and distinction from Harvey Mudd College and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from the University of Colorado.

Carson Meredith, Ph.D.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Carson Meredith received a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech (1993) and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas, Austin (1998). He was a postdoc at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from 1998 to 2000, and joined the faculty in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech in 2000. His research interests are the application of colloid and polymer science principles to biomass-derived renewable and sustainable materials and efficient processing of biomass. His group has pioneered in the area of using chitin and cellulose to derive alternative packaging materials as substitutes for plastics. He is the Executive Director of Georgia Tech’s Renewable Bioproducts Institute, one of ten interdisciplinary research institutes on the campus. In this role, he is catalyzing an interdisciplinary innovation community engaged in translational research in pulp, paper and packaging, circular materials from biomass, and bioindustrial manufacturing and biorefining. Dr. Meredith was Chief Editor for the journal Emergent Materials (Springer, 2018-2021).

Eric J. Perreault, Ph.D.

Northwestern University

Eric J. Perreault is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University and the Associate Dean for Research Administration and Oversight of Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. He earned a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University and received his M.S. Eng. and B.S. Eng. in Electrical Engineering from McGill University.

His research group focuses on understanding the neural and biomechanical factors involved in the normal control of multi-joint movement and posture and how these factors are modified following neuromotor pathologies such as stroke and spinal cord injury. The goal of this research is to provide a scientific basis for understanding normal and pathological motor control that can be used to guide rehabilitative strategies and user interface development for restoring function to individuals with motor deficits. A combination of experimentation, computer simulations, and machine learning is being used to achieve this goal. 

David Schaffer, Ph.D.

University of California, Berkeley

David Schaffer is the Hubbard Howe Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Bioengineering, and Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also serves as the Director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3). He received a B.S. from Stanford University in 1993 and a Ph.D. from MIT in 1998, both in chemical engineering. He then conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies before joining Berkeley in 1999. There, he applies engineering principles to optimize gene and stem cell therapies, work that includes developing the concept of applying directed evolution to engineer targeted and efficient viral gene therapy vectors as well as new technologies to investigate and control stem cell fate decisions. In addition, he has co-founded six companies, and gene therapy technologies developed in his lab are currently in four human clinical trials.

Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.

Brookhaven National Laboratory

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.

Malin Young, Ph.D.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Malin Young is the Associate Laboratory Director for Earth and Biological Sciences at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). In this role, she sets the vision and strategy for PNNL’s research in support of DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) and National Institutes of Health. Young leads a research directorate of more than 530 staff members who have expertise in atmospheric, earth system, biological and environmental sciences.  Her directorate also stewards two unique U.S. Department of Energy national scientific user facilities – the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) and the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

Board of Directors Institutions

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is JBEI’s lead institution and a founding partner of the DOE Joint Genome Institute. Berkeley Lab is also home to the Advanced Light Source, the Molecular Foundry, the National Center for Electron Microscopy and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Brookhaven National Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is a multipurpose research institution funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Located on the center of Long Island, New York, Brookhaven Lab brings world-class facilities and expertise to the most exciting and important questions in basic and applied science including sustainable energy. BNL is home to the Center for Functional Nanomaterials whose work will inform JBEI’s research.

Sandia National Lab

Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness. Its main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., provide expertise in systems engineering and integration function, microfluidics, computation, robotics, materials development and manufacturing technologies. SNL is operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.


Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America’s most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. PNNL employs 4,500 staff, has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion, and has been managed for the U.S. Department of Energy by Ohio-based Battelle since the laboratory’s inception in 1965.


Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) is host to the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry and is also one of the DOE Joint Genome Institute’s founding partners. LLNL provides expertise in genomics, bioinformatics, experimental protein production, advanced measurement technologies and high-performance scientific computing. LLNL is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) is one of the nation’s top public research universities with nearly 40,000 students. Tech’s engineering and computing Colleges are the largest and among the highest-ranked in the nation. With more than $1 billion annually in research awards across all six Colleges and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), Georgia Tech is among the nation’s most research-intensive universities. Georgia Tech’s mission is to develop leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. Its mission and strategic plan are focused on making a positive impact in the lives of people everywhere. Georgia Tech is partnering with JBEI on catalytic lignin depolymerization.


Established in 1858 Iowa State University (ISU) has been a leader in agriculture and engineering. In addition to be being home to Ames Laboratory, ISU houses the Bioeconomy Institute (BEI), Iowa Energy Center (IEC), Plant Science Institute (PSI), Center for Biorenewal Chemicals (CBiRC) and Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2) which will inform the work being done at JBEI.

Northwestern is a comprehensive research university that is deeply interdisciplinary across multiple schools. Their rigorous, yet empathetic, academic environment is impactful, producing top-tier research, new knowledge, creative expression and practical application. Northwestern University is committed to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community. Northwestern’s Chemical and Biological Engineering Department partners with JBEI’s Biofuels and Bioproducts Division on New Pathway Development.


The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is a statewide network of University of California researchers and educators dedicated to the creation, development and application of knowledge in agricultural, natural and human resources. UC ANR provides facilities for growing engineered feedstock crops.

The University of Adelaide — a member of Australia’s prestigious Group of Eight research-intensive universities — stands tall among the world’s leading institutions of learning and innovation. The University is consistently ranked as one of the top 1% of Universities worldwide by the most respected international assessment bodies

The University supports JBEI’s research mission by partnering with the Feedstock Division’s Plant Systems Biology Group.


UC Berkeley is the nation’s top-ranked public university. Founded in 1868, Berkeley provides a broad range of research support including molecular and cellular biology, molecular genetics, proteomics and environmental sciences. Berkeley counts among its current faculty seven Nobel laureates, 130 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 94 members of the National Academy of Engineering, and 13 recipients of the National Medal of Science.


UC Davis oversees the California Biomass Collaborative, the Northern California Nanotechnology Center, the Western Regional Center of the National Institute for Global Environmental Change and the UC Davis Genome Center. The university supports JBEI’s research mission by providing expertise in plant and environmental sciences, plant genetics, plant physiology, evolutionary biology and environmental science.

UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) joined the University of California system in 1944. Its faculty includes six Nobel Prize winners and scores of elected members of national and international academies and societies. The campus is home to 12 national centers and institutes, eight of which are sponsored by the National Science Foundation, including the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).

UC Santa Diego

Established in 1960, UC San Diego (UCSD) is one of the top 15 research universities in the world. One of the first universities in the nation to establish a department of nanoengineering, UC San Diego students work to develop innovative solutions to energy production, medical treatments and more. JBEI will namely partner with UCSD’s Systems Biology Research Group.