New Advance in Biofuel Production
Advanced biofuels – liquid fuels synthesized from the sugars in cellulosic biomass – offer a clean, green and renewable alternative to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. Bringing the costs of producing these advanced biofuels down to competitive levels with petrofuels, however, is a major challenge. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a bioenergy research center led by Berkeley Lab, have taken another step towards meeting this challenge with the development of a new technique for pre-treating cellulosic biomass with ionic liquids – salts that are liquids rather than crystals at room temperature. Read the Article Here>
PBD Scientists Named Members to the American Academy of Sciences
Susan Marqusee and James Berger, both professors at UCB, have been named members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a prestigious 233-year-old national honorary society of leaders from academia, business, public affairs and the humanities.
The newly elected are in good company with 8 other esteemed UCB faculty members in the 2013 election. The 2013 election bringing ten from UC Berkeley raises the number of academy members on the UC Berkeley faculty to 234.
“Election to the academy honors individual accomplishment and calls upon members to serve the public good,” said academy president Leslie C. Berlowitz. “We look forward to drawing on the knowledge and expertise of these distinguished men and women to advance solutions to the pressing policy challenges of the day.”
The 2013 cohort includes winners of the Nobel Prize; National Medal of Science; Lasker Award; Pulitzer and Shaw prizes; Fields Medal; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships; Kennedy Center Honors; and Grammy, Emmy, Academy and Tony awards. They will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 12, 2013, at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Please join us in congratulating Susan and James!
Keasling Wins Johnson Award
Jay Keasling, Berkeley Lab ALD for Biosciences and CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), has won this year’s Marvin J. Johnson Award in Microbial and Biochemical Technology. The award, which is sponsored by Pfizer, Inc., was announced at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in New Orleans. Keasling was recognized for his contributions to the establishment of metabolic engineering strategies and molecular toolboxes that can be used to develop microoganisms for the production of biofuels and other valuable chemical products. Keasling presented an award lecture at the ACS meeting on this topic.
Synthetic Biologists and Conservationists Open Talks
[Nature] A first-of-its-kind meeting was recently held at the University of Cambridge, leading conservationists and synthetic biologists discussed how the technology could be applied in ways to benefit the planet: to produce heat-tolerant coral reefs, pollution-sensing soil microbes and ruminant gut microbes that don’t belch methane. The discussions took place against a background of mutual wariness, with some observers nervous about the technology’s influence over land-use patterns. The Lab’s Jay Keasling addressed this issue when talking about the development of synthetic artemesinin. Read the Article Here>
JBEI and SynBERC Honored for Mentoring Next Generation of Scientists
JBEI and SynBERC have been honored for their innovative partnership offering real-world laboratory experience to high school students from under represented communities. The Introductory College-Level Experience in Microbiology (iCLEM) has been recognized with the Exceptional Mentoring Award by Biotech Partners. Now in its sixth year, iCLEM is a paid summer internship that gives promising students with a deep interest in science an opportunity to work on biofuels research projects inside JBEI’s state-of-the-art laboratories. During the 8-week program, students receive hands-on instruction in biosciences research, job training skills, career exploration opportunities and preparation for the college application process.
Lab Researchers Find Way to Catalyze More Sugar from Biomass
Harvey Blanch, Jan Liphardt and Doug Clark of the Physical Biosciences Division led a study in which a microscopy technique called PALM — for Photo-Activated Localization Microscopy — was used to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails on cellulosic biomass, boosting the yields of sugars for the production of advanced biofuels. Increasing the sugar yields from cellulosic biomass will help bring down biofuel production costs. Also working on this study were Jerome Fox, Phillip Jess, Rakesh Jambusaria and Genny Moo Read the Article Here>
JBEI Researchers Engineer Plant Cell Walls to Boost Sugar Yields for Biofuels
Dominique Loque of the Physical Biosciences Division leads a team at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) that is using synthetic biology to engineer healthy plants whose lignocellulosic biomass can more easily be broken down into simple sugars for the production of advanced biofuels. Working with Arabidopsis as a demonstration, the team genetically manipulates secondary cell walls to reduce the production of lignin and increase the yield of fuel sugars. The team includes Fan Yang, Prajakta Mitra, Ling Zhang, Lina Prak, Yves Verhertbruggen, Jin-Sun Kim, Lan Sun, Kejian Zheng, Kexuan Tang, Manfred Auer and Henrik Scheller. Read the Article Here>
Terry Johnson Wins Top Teaching Award
Terry Johnson, a Graduate Student Research Assistant within PBD and a Bioengineering lecturer at UC Berkeley, has been honored as one of the top five teachers across the university. He is said to have strong enthusiasm for his field of study and the energy behind it fuels his students' curiosity. Kevin Healy, the department chair, acknowledged that he is active in mentoring and advising students and inspires his peers to continuously improve. Read the Article Here>
Representative Barbara Lee Visits Lab
Recently, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee and her key DC and Oakland staff toured Berkeley Lab along with Director Alivisatos and Don Medley, head of Federal Government Relations. The Congresswoman was briefed on LIGTT and batteries research, and was given a tour of the Advanced Light Source by ALS Director Roger Falcone. Congresswoman Lee is a strong supporter of the Lab, especially research into renewable sources of sustainable energy. Read the Article Here>
New Details on the Molecular Machinery of Cancer
Researchers with LBNL and the UC Berkeley have provided important new details into the activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a cell surface protein that has been strongly linked to a large number of cancers and is a major target of cancer therapies. Jay Groves, who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and UC Berkeley’s Chemistry Department, and is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator is one of two corresponding authors of a paper in the journal Cell that describes this research. Read the Article Here>
Biofuel created by explosive technology
Chemical Engineers at JBEI and LBNL have created a biofuel from an old fermentation process which turns plant material into a propellant. Harvey Blanch, an LBNL researcher explains that many kinds of plant biomass, including corn, sugar cane, molasses to woody biomass or plant biomass - can be turned into a diesel product using this fermentation process. Read the SF Gate Article Here>
Lab Scientist Heinz Frei Sees the Light on Solar Energy
Heinz Frei was working as a postdoc at UC Berkeley in 1980 when his mentor, the late George Pimentel, walked up to his desk. He just returned from a Department of Energy solar research conference where most presentations focused on ultraviolet light. Infrared, which makes up far more of the energy reaching the Earth, had hardly earned a mention. The real potential to exploit sunlight, said Pimentel, lies in this “long” end of the light wavelength spectrum. He asked Frei if he would set up a research group at Berkeley Lab to study this. He said yes on the spot. Read the SF Gate Article Here>
Applying Pressure on Breasts can suppress Cancer Cell Growth
The American Society for Cell Biology presented at an annual meeting that research suggests applying pressure on breasts may help suppress cancer cell growth. This builds upon research done by Mina Bissell from LBNL, working jointly with Daniel Fletcher and his team within PBD. The study was part of new efforts by the National Institutes of Health to combine physical science research with ongoing cancer research. Read the Daily Cal Article Here>