Huang, Grace (2012-2015)


Grace is in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  She joined the training program in 2012. Her research mentor is Dr. Robert Clubb.  She received a B.S. degree in 2011 from UCLA.

Mentor: Dr. Robert Clubb

Research project:


As petroleum supplies dwindle, efforts to efficiently convert lignocellulose into biofuels have increased.  The abundant and renewable nature of cellulose makes it ideal for energy production; however, lignocellulose’s resistance to hydrolysis is limiting.  Pretreatment processes increase hydrolysis rates, but elevate the cost of cellulosic ethanol production.  Cellulosomes, highly efficient multicellulase-containing complexes, may resolve this problem by accelerating the rate-limiting step of cellulose decomposition.  The microbes in which cellulosomes naturally appear are not genetically tractable; however, the Clubb laboratory has previously demonstrated that Bacillus subtilis is amenable to minicellulosome display.  This makes possible the development of a consolidated bioprocessing bacteria that may directly convert biomass into biofuels and other important biocommodities.

My primary goal is to develop this consolidated bioprocessor.  First, the cellulolytic properties of the cellulosome must be maximized, by increasing the number of displayed cellulases, as well as choosing them accordingly.  Through the rational selection of enzymes and enzyme mixtures, as well as directed evolution, our designer cellulosomes may be optimized against certain types of biomass, given proper engineering and optimization.  Structural studies may help us elucidate the process of cellulosome assembly, allowing for further engineering.   Concurrently, we aim to engineer a novel pathway into our cellulolytic B. subtilis strain to produce useful end products, such as ethanol.