Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering associate professor Zengyi Shao has been named the inaugural Vernon Guse Faculty Fellow. The endowed faculty fellowship has been made possible by a gift from the estate of Vernon Guse (B.S. chemical engineering, 1934).
Shao will use support from the fellowship to help bolster her research team’s work in elucidating “functional genomics” of high-performing microbial species that have unique biochemical, metabolic, and physiological features – which enables the development of platform technologies to provide generalizable strain engineering solutions and enable rapid, functional modifications of high-performance microbes, and expand the current collection of microbial factories. Major research areas include:
- Building novel microbial manufacturing platforms and integrating biocatalysis and catalysis to nurture a sustainable biorenewable chemical industry – which includes designing various microbial factories for producing high-value compounds. Aligning with the mission of the Center for Biorenewable Chemicals to nurture a sustainable biorenewable chemical industry, the Shao group collaborates with the research groups specializing in electrochemistry and polymer science to streamline the integration of biocatalysis and catalysis.
- Elucidating core design principles to streamline nonconventional microbial host development – a research theme aimed at providing the main avenues for enabling rapid functional modifications of challenging nonconventional species and genome-scale genotype–phenotype profiling.
- Creating microbial consortia to perform complex tasks – which focuses on cooperation and division of labor similar to what is found in nature, wherein organisms have established a wide variety of relationships. Exploring nucleosome-depleted sequences for novel applications in synthetic biology – a research theme aimed at studying noncoding regions of a genome, sequences commonly viewed as junk but turn out to play a crucial role in regulating and guiding cellular behaviors.
Shao was recently awarded the Iowa State University Bailey Research Career Development Award for a research study involving mitochondrial DNA to address mitochondrial dysfunction in a wide range of health issues and address tailored drug development.
The Vernon Guse Faculty Fellowship has been established in honor of Vernon (“Gus”) Guse, who was a 1934 Iowa State University chemical engineering graduate. He worked for the Continental Can Company of Chicago, IL and Tamps, FL for 36 years. He was a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, and served in World War II.