Active Sponsored Projects:

Moore Foundation ─ Developing a Toolkit for Advancing Lignin Disassembly Technology (2022-2025), in a collaboration with Dr. Ulugbek Kamilov (Co-PI, Wash U CSE) Project Description: Develop an experimental and data analytics toolkit to study lignin disassembly using advanced lignin model compounds, machine learning (ML) methods, and in-situ magic angle spinning (MAS) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to achieve real-time reaction monitoring that provides detailed and molecular-level information on the trans-formations occurring. 

DOE BES Neutron Scattering Program – Polymer Threading and Confinement into Nanoscale Porous Upcycling Catalyst (2022-2025), in a collaboration with Dr. Ulugbek Kamilov (Co-PI, Wash U CSE) Project Description: Develop approaches that exploit the unique aspects of neutrons to investigate the behavior of plastic waste molecules in the presence of heterogeneous catalysts, in real-time and at high–temperature and –pressure (high-T,P) reaction conditions. 

NSF-OIA ─ Collaborative Research: GCR: Accelerated Discovery of Synthetic Biological Materials (2022-2027), in a collaboration with Dr. Fuzhong Zhang (Co-PI, Wash U EECE) and Dr. Guy Genin (Co-PI, Wash U MEMS). Project Description: Synthesize and characterize cellulose-based recombinant protein nanocomposites for high strength applications. 

NSF-CBET ─ NSF MRI: Acquisition of High Temperature and Pressure Solid-state NMR Spectrometer (2021-2024), in a collaboration with Dr. Jonathan Barnes (Co-PI, Wash U Chem), Dr. Pratim Biswas (Co-PI, U Miami ChE), Dr. Dan Giammar (Co-PI, Wash U EECE), Dr. Vijay Ramani (Co-PI, Wash U EECE). Project Description: The acquisition and installation of a state-of-the-art solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance  spectrometer capable of high-temperature and high-pressure sample analysis, thus opening the door to the study of a broad range of critical environmental, biological, and fuels/chemicals manufacturing technologies under realistic conditions.

NSF-DMR ─ Structure-Property Relationships of Protein-based Block Copolymer Nanocomposites (2021-2024), in a collaboration with Dr. Fuzhong Zhang (Co-PI, WashU EECE), Dr. Guy Genin (Co-PI, Wash U MEMS). Project Description: Synthesize and characterize cellulose-based recombinant protein nanocomposites for novel surgical adhesives.

NSF ECO-CBET – Electrodeless Electrochemical Valorization of Lignin (2021-2024), in a collaboration with Dr. Elijah Thimsen (PI, WashU EECE), Dr. Mark Mba Wright (Co-PI, ISU Mechanical Engineering Department), Dr. Kimberly M Parker (Co-PI, WashU EECE Department), Dr. Corey Stephenson (Co-PI, U Mich Chemistry). Project Description: Achieving selective oxidation and reductive depolymerization of lignin using electrochemical and low-temperature plasma reactions.

NSF CMMI –  Science and Technology Center for Engineering Mechano-Biology (2016-2026), a collaboration among Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California-Los Angeles, Alabama State University, Boston University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, the Pennsylvania State University and Bryn Mawr College.  Project Description: Applying advanced characterization techniques to the cell wall and extracellular matrix to investigate biomechanics and mechanobiology.

ORNL CNMS User Proposal – Mechano-chemical imaging of plant cell walls undergoing tension wood formation (2021-2022).

Completed Projects:

ACS Herman Frasch Fund for Chemical Research – Elucidating the Chemical Mechanisms and Kinetics for Lignin Disassembly with Bimetallic Metal Oxides (2017-2022). Project Description: Elucidating, and ultimately manipulating, the effect of copper and nickel bimetallic compositions within porous metal oxides as catalysts for selective lignin depolymerization into aromatic chemicals via hydrogenolysis.

ORNL CNMS User Proposal – Synthesis of [13C]-labeled monomer for lignin model polymers for in-situ nuclear magnetic resonance reaction analysis (2020-2021).

ORNL CNMS User Proposal – Correlative imaging of local cell wall composition and stiffness in helical growth mutants using Atomic Force Microscope-Infrared Spectroscopy, in a collaboration with Dr. Ram Dixit, Wash U Biology Department (2020-2021).

NSF CBET Catalysis – Designing Catalytic Interfaces to Promote Selective Lignin Depolymerization (2016-2021), in a collaboration with Dr. Susanna Scott (Co-PI, UC Santa Barbara ChE).  Project Description: Synthesizing novel lignin model compounds and polymers and investigating reaction pathways for heterogeneous catalyzed hydrogenolysis of lignin.

EMSL PNNL User Proposal – Integrated Mutli-omics Analyses for the Prediction of Metabolic Flux in Lignin Conversion using In-Situ Solid-State Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Sum Frequency Generation for Surface Vibrational Spectroscopy, and Fourier-Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (2018-2020).

DOE Biological and Environmental Research – Systems Engineering of Rhodococcus opacus to Enable Production of Drop-in Fuels from Lignocelluloses (2017-2020), in a collaboration with Dr. Gautam Dantas (Wash U School of Medicine), Dr. Tae Seok Moon (Wash U EECE), Dr. Fuzhong Zhang (Wash U EECE), Dr. Yinjie Tang (Wash U EECE), and Hector-Garcia Martin (Biosciences, Berkeley Lab).  Project Description: Characterizing Rhodococcus Opacus metabolism of aromatic compounds and lipid production.

ORNL CNMS User Proposal – Correlative Microscopy to Investigate Local Cell Wall Composition and Stiffness using Atomic Force Microscope-Infrared Spectroscopy (2020).

ORNL Neutron Science User Proposal – Understanding the Role of Molecular Diffusion in the Heterogeneous Catalytic Depolymerization of Lignin using Quasielastic Neutron Scattering (2020).

ORNL Neutron Science User Proposal – Small and Ultra-Small Angle Neutron Scattering of Poplar upon Reductive Fractionation (2019-2020).

ORNL Neuron Science User Proposal – Operando Studies of a Copper Catalyst for Lignin Depolymerization (2017).

ORNL Neuron Science User Proposal – Contrast Variation of Catalyst used in Chemical Reaction (2017).

EMSL PNNL User Proposal – Advanced Molecular Characterization of Solvo-Catalytic Lignin Disassembly using In-Situ Solid-State Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Fourier-Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (2017).

NSF DMR Polymers – EAGER: Investigating the Structure-Property Relationships of Sugar-Derived Block Copolymers (2015-2017), in a collaboration with Co-PI Dr. Thomas Epps III, University of Delaware.  Project Description: Synthesizing novel sugar-derived monomers for polymerization into block copolymers.

DOE Biological and Environmental Research – Systems Biology of Rhodococcus Opacus to Enable Production of Fuels and Chemicals (2014-2017), in a collaboration with Dr. Gautam Dantas, WashU School of Medicine and Dr. Tae Seok Moon, WashU EECE Department.  Project Description: Characterizing Rhodococcus Opacus metabolism of aromatic compounds and lipid production.

ORNL Neuron Science User Proposal – Operando Studies of the Catalytic Disassembly of Lignin (2016).

Wash U InCEES Award – Transition Metal Complexes for Lignin Depolymerization (2015-2016), in a collaboration with Dr. John Bleeke, Wash U Chemistry Department.  Project Description: Investigating the novel homogenous catalysts for the hydrogenolysis of lignin.

McKelvey Collaboration Initiation Grant – Novel NMR and EPR Technology for Surface Characterization of Biomass (2015-2016), in a collaboration with Dr. Alexander Barnes, WashU Chemistry Department.  Project Description: Investigating the application of dynamic nuclear polarization NMR for surface analysis of biomass.

Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization – Addressing Challenges to Market Implementation of Co-Firing of Torrefied Biomass (2015-2016), in a collaboration with Dr. Ben Kumfer, WashU EECE Department.  Project Description: Investigating biomass torrefaction reaction pathways.

Wash U InCEES Award – Aerosol Synthesis of Hyperthermic Catalysis (2014-2015), in a collaboration with Dr. Pratim Biswas, WashU EECE Department.  Project Description: Investigating a robust hyperthermic catalytic system to efficiently capture and utilize microwave energy for chemical reactions.

Wash U InCEES Award – Hybrid Conversion of Lignin: Trees to Fat (2013-2014), in a collaboration with Dr. Tae Seok Moon, WashU EECE Department.  Project Description: Investigating a catalyzed hydrogenolysis process to produce a narrow distribution of water-soluble lignin fragment intermediates.

Georgia Tech FACES Career Initiation Grant – Exploitation of Lignocellulosic Biomass (2012).