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.

UNDERGRADUATE LABORATORY ASSISTANT

Currently, I am a sophomore here at Washington University. I have the pleasure of participating in the Pakrasi Lab through the work-study program. While my major is Chemistry for the moment, it is always susceptible to change, however I know my place belongs in the labs. I plan to use this work-study experience as a learning experience so that I may have the opportunity to perform similar work in the future.

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 joined the Pakrasi lab in 2017 as a Ph.D. student from the Plant and Microbial Biology program. In the lab I study 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 techniques and approaches. Outside of the lab my hobbies include walking my dog, Thai boxing, hiking, and dance.

GRADUATE STUDENT

As a Ph.D. student in the Molecular Genetics and Genomics Program, my thesis project seeks to identify genes that are required for natural transformation (genomic incorporation of naked extracellular DNA) in cyanobacteria. This knowledge will allow us more easily engineer the genomes of cyanobacterial species for production of valuable biosynthetic products. One of the aspects of my research that I find most exciting is the potential to make species of cyanobacteria that are difficult to study more accessible for scientific investigation.

Previous Members

ROTATION STUDENT

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

LABORATORY TECHNICIAN

ROTATION STUDENT

GRADUATE STUDENT

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER

VISITING GRADUATE STUDENT

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER

Graduate Student

LABORATORY TECHNICIAN

UNDERGRADUATE IGEM RESEARCHER

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