Sami Chang

Developing of Reductive Loop Design Principles for Polyketide Synthases

The consumption of petroleum-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel continues to affect greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Alternative fuel sources are needed, and recent breakthroughs in synthetic biology provide a promising solution: the engineering of microorganisms to generate drop-in biofuels, which are compatible with existing engines.
Unlike electricity and natural gas alternatives, biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by recycling the carbon dioxide that is emitted. However, biofuel derived directly from crops or oils may threaten land and/or food security. Thus, this project focuses on expanding the diversity of biofuels by engineering polyketide synthases (PKSs), or complex enzymes found in microorganisms, to generate molecules that can function as drop-in biofuels. We specifically aim to develop the design principles for such PKS engineering by producing fully reduced acids from PKSs that would normally produce hydroxy acids. Not only will this technology assist in developing an accessible, environmentally-friendly fuel alternative, but these engineering methods can also be further applied to create various desired specialty and commodity chemicals.

Message to Sponsor

This experience has really cultivated my interest in research and motivated me to continue pursuing a career in research. Because I was able to work for almost the entirety of the summer, I grew much more confident in conducting wet lab experiments and really comprehending the depth of our project. I could more closely observe my postdoc to get a sense of what research looks like day-to-day, and even was able to experience the ups and downs of failed and successful experiments. I know that I will carry the lessons I have learned this past summer with me as I head into the new semester and my future research career.
  • Major: Bioengineering
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Experience
  • Mentor: Amin Zargar