Zengyi Shao, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Iowa State University, grows genetically engineered yeast to address pentose utilization in mixed sugars. Shao says this is “a critical challenge in biomass utilization” in order to economically produce biorenewable fuels and chemicals.
Shao recently received a one-year, $75,000 Iowa Energy Center opportunity grant for building a highly adaptable yeast consortium for efficient biomass utilization. The award pays for a graduate student researcher, a postdoctoral researcher, and laboratory supplies.
Shao and her research group implement unique synthetic biology expertise to trick two different types of yeast to collaboratively convert lignocellulosic hydrolysates, the non-edible portion of plant-derived biomass, to value-added chemicals.