My main area of focus is soil synthetic biology, with an emphasis on engineering the soil microbiome. I am particularly interested in addressing the unique challenges associated with engineering microbes in environmental settings, such as:
- How do we design genetic circuits to perform consistently across different host backgrounds and physiological states?
- How do we noninvasively measure microbial activity in the soil?
- How do we reliably deliver genetic circuits into the soil microbiome?
- How do we ensure reliable and safe performance in systems that will be inaccessible after deployment?
Why engineer the soil microbiome?
The soil is a vast and complex ecosystem that plays a major role in global biogeochemical processes and is the literal foundation of our own human society. Within this environment, microbial metabolism is the major bridge that links the biotic and abiotic aspects of the soil ecosystem together— whether one wants to understand how global nutrient cycling processes affect greenhouse gas production, wants to remediate environments contaminated by toxins, or wants to increase the resilience and yield of crop plants to better feed our growing population, microbes will be a key player in the solutions to any of these challenges.