People

LABORATORY DIRECTOR

I am interested in studying photosynthetic organisms that are the primary producers in our biosphere. During recent years, my research group has focused on cyanobacteria, prokaryotic organisms that perform oxygenic photosynthesis and are the progenitors of chloroplasts in plants and algae. Our investigations span multiple disciplines. We study energy transducing molecular machines such as Photosystem II, the unique membrane protein complex that catalyzes splitting of water to molecular oxygen. We also deploy cutting edge tools of synthetic and systems biology to understand the inner workings of cyanobacterial cells that are emerging as attractive biocatalysts for sustainable, carbon neutral production of food, feed and fuels.

Between 2007 and 2020, I have served as the founding director of the International Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (InCEES) at Washington University. In this role, I helped catalyze formation of teams of researchers and teachers to address the great energy, environmental and sustainability challenges facing our planet. See https://incees.wustl.edu for more information on InCEES.

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

My interest lies in unraveling the biology behind the working of an enigmatic group of unicellular cyanobacteria called Cyanothece. The members of the genus Cyanothece are capable of accommodating the antagonistic processes of photosynthesis (an oxygen evolving process) and atmospheric N2 fixation (an oxygen sensitive process) within the same cellular platform. In addition, the different Cyanothece strains harbor many interesting metabolic traits such as high levels of hydrogen production under aerobic conditions. I use these organisms as a model system to explore their potential in sunlight-driven targeted product formation.

SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

My current interest is on how various forms of biological stress induce responses in a photosynthetic organism. The current emphasis is to document differences in the redox related chemistry and gene expression in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis 6803 that allow survival in the presence of various applied stresses. These stresses include changes in light availability, water, salt and micronutrient content of the environment.

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

Having completed my Ph.D. studies on the role of low-molecular-weight proteins associated with Photosystem II, I aim to further explore the in vivo Photosystem II assembly process in cyanobacteria. Owing to the oxidative nature of water splitting, the enzyme (Photosystem II) constantly gets damaged.  The current model suggests that following damage the reaction center protein D1 gets selectively replaced in a process that constitutes the Photosystem II repair cycle. In my current project, I explore the processes related to Photosystem II damage and repair.

LABORATORY TECHNICIAN

I am a technician in the lab and enjoy working here with a group of energetic and passionate people! I am responsible for maintaining cyanobacterial cultures and assisting other lab members in addition to performing independent experiments such as PCR, subcloning, and plasmid preparation. I am very interested in working in the field of renewable energy, which will ultimately have a global impact.

GRADUATE STUDENT

My research interest is the assembly and repair of the Photosystem II protein complex. I am using a combination of genetic manipulation and protein biochemistry to study how the 20+ proteins in this complex come together in Synechocystis 6803. I’m a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Plant and Microbial Biosciences program.

RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

My research interests focus on understanding the structure-function relationships between cellular architecture and biological processes.  Cyanobacteria are ideal model systems for this work because of their diverse metabolic lifestyles, which in some strains can include photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and hydrogen production, often coordinated with storage body accumulation and mobilization.  My work uses a variety of experimental approaches, including biochemistry, molecular biology, and imaging methods including light and electron microscopy.

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

Cyanobacteria are my favorite research organisms. My research interests are focused on synthetic biology. Particularly, I am interested in using genome editing and gene regulation with CRISPR systems as tools for research. Right now, I am developing an optimized and universal control system for gene expression in cyanobacteria.

GRADUATE STUDENT

I completed my B.S. in Molecular and Biochemical Plant Biology from the University of Illinois Carbondale and joined the Pakrasi lab as a Ph.D. student with the Plant and Microbial Biology program at Wash U. My PhD thesis project addresses high-light tolerance in the fast growing cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus UTEX 2973. I aim to identify new factors and mechanisms of high-light tolerance using a range of genetic and physiological techniques. My most recent focus has been to characterize a putative enzyme that exhibits a strong link to light-stress response, this work is supported by the Bayer Graduate Fellowship. Outside of the lab, my hobbies include walking my dog, Thai boxing, hiking, and dance.

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

I completed my Ph.D. in August 2020 from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India. During my Ph.D. I focused on optimizing and developing synthetic biology tools for metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria. I have worked towards developing a model strain, S. elongatus PCC 7942 and its sister strain, S. elongatus PCC 11801 as a host for producing important chemicals. Currently, I am working as a post-doctoral research associate in the Pakrasi Lab.

Rotation Student

 I studied Biological Engineering at Mizzou where I also worked in a computational ecology lab designing field deployed sensor systems and developing methods to quantify plant transpiration using thermal imagery. After graduating in 2016, I spent a brief time studying lizard predator/prey interactions in the Bahamas before joining the Ru Zhang Lab where I investigated algal genomics and photosynthesis for nearly 4 years prior to graduate school. In the Pakrasi lab, I’m investigating the necessity of the KaiA circadian regulation gene as part of an effort to optimally minimize the size of the cyanobacteria genome.

Previous Members

ROTATION STUDENT

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

LABORATORY TECHNICIAN

ROTATION STUDENT

GRADUATE STUDENT

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

Graduate Student

LABORATORY TECHNICIAN

UNDERGRADUATE IGEM RESEARCHER

UNDERGRADUATE LABORATORY ASSISTANT

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

ROTATION STUDENT

LABORATORY TECHNICIAN

Research Scientist

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

VISITING RESEARCHER

UNDERGRADUATE IGEM RESEARCHER

Undergraduate Researcher

UNDERGRADUATE IGEM RESEARCHER

RESEARCH SCIENTIST

GRADUATE STUDENT

VISITING GRADUATE STUDENT

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

GRADUATE STUDENT

GRADUATE STUDENT

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER

LABORATORY TECHNICIAN

Undergraduate Researcher

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER

UNDERGRADUATE LABORATORY ASSISTANT

ROTATION STUDENT

ROTATION STUDENT

GRADUATE STUDENT

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

VISITING RESEARCHER

UNDERGRADUATE IGEM RESEARCHER

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

ROTATION STUDENT

GRADUATE STUDENT

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

ROTATION STUDENT

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

VISITING SCIENTIST

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

GRADUATE STUDENT

Rotation Student