Bioremediation and Biorecovery
Our lab is interested in establishing new bacterial systems for synthetic biology to enable us to degrade persistent environmental pollutants, or ideally upcycle them into high-value biomolecules. Our main targets are synthetic rubber, plastics and long-chain hydrocarbons, and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls - all of which have a large environmental footprint in the state of Texas. Many Actinobacteria can naturally metabolize many of the these compounds and are genetically tractable hosts for the production of high-value products like terpenes, making them excellent candidates for strain engineering and bioremediation. Using an automated high-throughput screening platform, we are working in collaboration with Army Research Labs South (ARL-South) and local community partners in the Houston metropolitan area to isolate, characterize, and engineer interesting environmental Actinobacteria.
In addition to bioremediation, we are investigating the biochemistry of environmental microorganisms with the potential for biorecovery of metals from non-traditional sources, such as electronic waste. Developing environmentally friendly and cost effective methods for metal recovery from waste and industrial byproducts will play an important role in securing the supply of these materials in the face of increasing global demand.