- Advisor: David Valentine
- Department: Interdepartmental Program in Marine Science
- Campus: UCSB
- BioPACIFIC MIP Research: SET 1 - Bioderived Materials
What is your research focus?
As a researcher, I believe that the solution to every problem already exists in nature - we then should mimic, modify, and upscale these processes. I embrace this mentality when tackling my life-long endeavor of finding solutions to climate change and our global material and atmospheric pollution. Primary producers inspire me to further develop their natural closed loop systems for carbon capture and fixation that can alleviate the rapid rate of stress we put on our environment. My first graduate research project that I’m currently working on at UCSB aims to upscale the production of propane and other hydrocarbons from fatty acids through an enzyme found in macroalgae. Through directed evolution, genetic modification, and the incorporation of novel amino acids, I’m attempting to increase the enzyme’s FA compatibility and increase yields for potential industrial use. The Materials Genome Initiative is an exciting route to explore with my projects and one I look forward to learning more about. While this initial project started me into the sphere of bio-derived materials with positive environmental effects, I will expand beyond this scope and create products that are equally sustainable in their degradation as in their formation. While we face rising emissions, seas of plastic, and food waste, I look to natural biological processes that can exemplify how these dilemmas complement one another in their resolutions. The BioPACIFIC MIP SETs of bio derived materials, functional biomimics, and degradation-optimized materials merge in my work as I search for ways to upcycle degraded waste into higher-value products.
What excites you about NSF BioPACIFIC MIP?
When applying to graduate school, I sought out a research experience that would propel me into the spheres of synthetic biochemistry. UCSB’s partnership in the BioPACIFIC MIP was a profound incentive to apply to their graduate school because of this prevalent financial and educational support for my goal of creating sustainable solutions through biopolymers. My undergraduate research focused on chemical analysis and finite biochemical techniques. Thus, an acceptance into the Fellows and Affiliates program would give me the valuable opportunity to explore a field I’ve garnered much enthusiasm for and gain training from experienced researchers in biomimicry techniques for material production and degradation. I am thrilled by the chance to work alongside others who seek to reduce our dependence on a petroleum based economy. I feel research must play a role in industrial changes to ameliorate our future climate and the challenges that arise with it. I plan to use my graduate degree to enter the industry and improve pollution mitigation through processes that can upcycle our pollution. This fellowship would not only give me access to educational resources like the MIP summer courses but also provide me the perspectives and connections within industry that will aid my future aspirations.