I am a environmental engineer using tools from biology to improve human health and preserve the environment. I seek to become a leader in the field and empower future generations of engineers to tackle humanity's most pressing challenges.
Dampness and visible mold are ubiquitous in buildings. Nearly 1/5 of buildings in North America and Europe have problems with dampness. The problem is even worse in homes, where an estimated half of US homes are considered damp. This dampness and visible mold are known to lead to negative health effects; however, the casual relationships between fungal exposure and health impacts remains nebulous.
I am investigating these connections; seeking to understand the ecology and activity of the microbial communities that also inhabit our homes. In particular, I have demonstrated that dampness impacts fungal community gene expression, something that previous studies have overlooked. In future work, I will seek to show how what the community is doing is equally, if not more important, than what the community’s composition is.
As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, it is clear that we need to break our addiction to fossil fuels. Cyanobacteria-derived biofuels are one promising alternative to our need for a sustainable drop-in fuel. As biofuels are capable of being burned by the vehicles already on the road, they would not require a massive turnover in the transportation sector, reducing a significant barrier to other green technologies. Furthermore, cyanobacteria are capable of producing other chemicals, such as pigments and pharmaceuticals, that can help offset their cost.
Through my research, I am developing a cyanobacteria platform for the production of biofuel-precursors and valuable chemical products, using the strain Synechococcus elongatus UTEX 2973.