Bioenergy and Biofuels
Supervising Faculty: Xiaohan Yang
Robert’s research background is in phycology with his Master’s thesis focusing on algal identification, use of diatoms as bioindicators, and algal ecology. During graduate school, he also worked with an algal biotech company in testing and optimizing growing procedures of different algal strains for use in biofuel, bioplastics, and other products in the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical areas. He also assisted in diatom identification workshops for the U.S. EPA and Georgia EPD. Post-graduate school, Robert was a primary instructor in Environmental Science and Biodiversity courses for one year while also mentoring undergraduate students in algal research.
As a part of the DOE funded CAM Biodesign Project, Robert’s research now focuses on understanding how the circadian clock controls the molecular process that govern the biological processes in crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) plants. Rob applies computational tools and analyses to decipher the circadian output network to help better understand how CAM-related processes are temporally controlled. Understanding the control mechanisms that enable CAM plants to achieve improved photosynthetic efficiencies and water use efficiencies relative to nonCAM plants will allow for transferring of these traits to bioenergy and agricultural crops, thus enabling drought resistance/tolerance crops.
Along with his research, Robert has taken an active role in the entrepreneurship aspect of the Bredesen Center. Robert is co-founder of SimPath, Inc, (www.simpathinnovations.com) a DNA assembly company that accelerates research through affordable and quick assembly of DNA parts.
Master of Science in Biology - Georgia College and State University (2012)
Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science - Georgia College and State University (2010)
Awards and Recognitions
- Excellence in Graduate Research, University of Tennessee, 2017
- Technology Innovation Program Phase 2 Grant ($250,000), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2017
- q-bio Summer School Scholarship, Colorado State University, 2017
- Boyd Venture Challenge awardee, University of Tennessee ($10,000), 2016
- National Institute of General Medical Sciences Scholarship for Cold Spring Harbor Lab Synthetic Biology Course, 2016
- National Science Foundation Scholarship for Cold Spring Harbor Lab Synthetic Biology Course, 2016
- Outstanding Graduate Student in Biology, Georgia College and State University, 2012