Scientist of the Day

June 15th

Jun Urano

Senior Scientist – Strain Engineering
Synthetic Genomics, Inc.

Dr. Jun Urano joined SGI in 2011 where he currently leads the Cmax strain engineering team. Cmax is a proprietary microbial host that is being engineered for manufacturing a variety of products, such as PUFAs and biologics. Jun has played a key role in establishing genetic tools for engineering Cmax, such as novel DNA cassette construction methods, genome sequencing, and genome editing techniques. Prior to SGI, Jun lead the yeast strain engineering efforts at Gevo, Inc., where he developed yeast for the production of biobutanol – a platform compound for fuels, chemicals, and plastics.

Nominated by an anonymous colleague:
“Jun Urano has helped make advances in synthetic biology. He created the PBnJ cloning system which…helps molecular biologists to assemble DNA in difficult regions that would otherwise be cumbersome to clone. Despite being the smartest one in the room at nearly all times, Jun approaches science with a humble attitude.”

June 14th

Elsbeth Walker

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dr. Elsbeth Walker is a Professor in the Biology Department at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her group has a strong interest in the processes by which plants move iron and other transition metals within their above ground parts. She has worked extensively on members of the Yellow Stripe Like (YSL) family of transporters that are required for normal iron, zinc, and copper loading into both vegetative and reproductive tissues. Currently, the Walker Lab uses a combination of molecular genetic, physiological and “‘omics” approaches to understand how whole plant signaling of iron status occurs.

Nominated by an anonymous colleague:
“Dr. Walker is a pioneer in plant molecular genetics. Her work ethic and research acumen is astounding. My past experiences working with her were not only remarkable but also inspiring.”

June 13th

Ingo Braasch

Assistant Professor
Michigan State University

Dr. Ingo Braasch joined the Department of Integrative Biology at Michigan State University in 2016. His research addresses fundamental questions about the genomic and developmental basis of major transitions during the course of vertebrate evolution. The Braasch Lab studies genomic and morphological novelties in vertebrates at the levels of genome structure, gene family dynamics, and gene regulation and combine comparative genomics with analyses of molecular evolution and developmental genetic approaches using zebrafish (Danio rerio), spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) and other fishes as model systems.

Nominated by an anonymous colleague:
“Dr. Braasch has led and contributed to multiple genome projects of species at important phylogenetic positions to unravel the genomic basis of evolutionary novelties of teleost fish and land-dwelling vertebrates…His work has been instrumental in elucidating the importance of the teleost whole-genome duplication.”

June 12th

Sway Chen

MD/PhD Student
Columbia University Medical Center

Before coming to Columbia University, Sway Chen received her BA in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard University in 2012. As a graduate student in the lab of Harris Wang, she is developing novel tools and methods for genetically engineering bacteria, particularly mammalian gut bacteria, within their native ecosystems and environments. Sway is interested in the interplay between the human gut microbiome and health and disease, and she hopes to use these genetic tools to perform functional genetic studies of the gut microbiome and develop therapeutic probiotics.

Nominated by Ravi Sheth:
“Sway is hard working, the first one into lab and the last one out; she is extremely dedicated and tenacious, and is a stellar scientist. Beyond her work ethic Sway is the backbone of the lab, and puts a smile on everyone’s face.”

June 11th

Michelle O’Malley

Assistant Professor
University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Michelle O’Malley joined the Chemical Engineering faculty at UC-Santa Barbara in 2012, and her research group engineers protein synthesis within anaerobes and consortia for sustainable chemical production, bioremediation, and natural product discovery. O’Malley was named one of the 35 Top Innovators Under 35 by MIT Technology Review in 2015, and is the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), a DOE Early Career Award, an NSF CAREER award, the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, an ACS PMSE Young Investigator Award, an ACS WCC “Rising Star” Award, and a Hellman Faculty Fellowship.

Nominated by Susanna Seppala:
“Michelle O’Malley is doing groundbreaking research on understudied anaerobic fungi…[Her] research will contribute to the sustainable production of fuels and fine chemicals from renewable biomass (such as agricultural waste). In other words, Michelle O’Malley’s research is all about making our world a greener place!”

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