Patrick Shih

Director of Plant Biosystems Design

Research Focus

Much of the ingenuity of life has revolved around the evolution of metabolic pathways, which has unlocked novel chemistries and expanded the molecular repertoire of nature. In particular, plants have been especially successful through the evolution of many unique and relevant metabolisms, ranging from synthesis of specialized compounds that can be used as pharmaceuticals (e.g., morphine, artemisinin) to broad processes that drive our planet’s elemental cycles (e.g., photosynthesis). As a result, life as we know it could not exist without plants. Given the scale and utility of agriculture, plants offer a unique platform to address many imminent challenges facing society. My research focuses on developing the foundational knowledge needed to innovate, deploy, and engineer new traits in plants using synthetic biology. Beyond biotechnological applications, these approaches can also be utilized to provide more sophisticated tools to improve our basic understanding of plant systems.


  • Developing synthetic biology tools to enable more complex, targeted, and sophisticated engineering efforts in plants
  • Stacking traits into bioenergy feedstocks for improved yield, biomass, and sustainability
  • Designing and engineering plants for the production of target compounds directly from photosynthesis

Non-JBEI Projects

  • Leveraging synthetic biology approaches to study the evolution of primary and secondary metabolism
  • Utilizing genomics to investigate the evolution of photosynthesis

Featured Media

Fossils of earliest organisms that had sex are a billion years old

Genome Research Challenges Previous Understanding of the Origin of Photosynthesis

Berkeley Lab, Caltech researchers debunk misconception about photosynthesis

Congratulations to JBEI’s Berkeley Lab Director’s Award Recipients

New Plant Synbio Tool Breaks With Tradition

Featured Publications

See Google Scholar profile for complete list

Featured Intellectual Property

  • Constructs and systems and methods for engineering a CO2 fixing photorespiratory by-pass in cyanobacteria.