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.

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.

Mark Lagrimini, Ph.D.

University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Mark Lagrimini is the Vice Provost of Research and Extension with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. As Vice Provost of Research and Extension, he provides leadership and vision to county-based Cooperative Extension personnel and employees at the nine research and extension centers. Most previously Dr. Lagrimini was a professor in the Department of Agronomy & Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he studied the regulation of carbohydrate partitioning in maize and its impact on drought tolerance. From 2005 to 2011, he served as head of the Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, leading the university’s largest department of more than 80 faculty members.

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 Acting 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.

Prasant Mohapatra, Ph.D.

University of California, Davis

Dr. Prasant Mohapatra is serving as the Vice Chancellor for Research at University of California, Davis. He is also a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and served as the Dean and Vice-Provost of Graduate Studies during 2016-18. He served as Associate Chancellor during 2014-16, and the Interim Vice-Provost and CIO of UC Davis during 2013-14. He was the Department Chair of Computer Science during 2007-13. He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Padova, Italy and Yonsei University, and KAIST, South Korea. His research interests are in the areas of wireless networks, mobile communications, cybersecurity, and Internet protocols.

Cristina Negri, D.Agr.Sc.

Argonne National Laboratory

M. Cristina Negri currently leads the Environmental Science Division, where she is working on integrating fundamental and translational science to address some of the most critical environmental problems facing the Nation and the world. An agronomist by training, during her more than 25 years at Argonne, Cristina conducted and directed laboratory to full-scale multidisciplinary projects developing technologies and concepts for environmental stewardship, including soil remediation and water treatment. Her contribution to bioenergy science includes researching the integration of bioenergy within working agricultural landscapes to address the food, energy, water, and land nexus. Her work focuses on developing sustainable, multifunctional landscape concepts, which aim, by design, at the creation of ecosystems services as well as the production of sustainable, energy crop feedstock.

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.

Mike Witherell, Ph.D.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Michael Witherell is a leading physicist with a highly distinguished career in teaching, research and managing complex organizations. He has received numerous honors and recognitions for his scientific contributions and achievements. Witherell is the former director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in northern Illinois and last held the Presidential Chair in Physics at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) where he was also vice chancellor for research. He was named director of Berkeley Lab by the UC Board of Regents in January, 2016.

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.


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.


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.


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.