LANGSTON MCKEE – PLANT CELLULOSE FROM BACTERIA
Langston Mckee is heading a project with his lab partner (Thomas) where they are looking to streamline efficient Plant Cellulose expression in bacteria. They are using Agrobacterium to produce plant cellulose sourced from Monterey Pine, a moderately hard straight grained wood primarily used for lumber and pulp. Trials are performed with RNA amplification, PCR and DNA recombination. The immediate goal is to maximize the speed and amount of cellulose produced.
Initially inspired when hearing about spider silk from bacteria, Langston dreamed of the application of such mass produced organic materials in bacteria. The benefits of plant cellulose are not immediately obvious but on further refection its clear to imagine the expansive benefits of such an innovation. Through mass production a new and sustainable source of plant cellulose can be repurposed into a variety of forms ranging from softwood paper production to producing cotton. A shift from traditionally grown harvesting techniques, to that of bacteria, would help curb the deforestation issues that are ravaging most of the world. In turn this would alleviate some pressures from the looming global climate crisis as well as improve the general beautification of our plant. Once this technology has been optimized well enough, Langston aims to monetize this technology and begin a company that would produce organic materials with the bacteria.
Langston McKee graduated from George Washington University studying Biology and Emergency Health Services and is currently working as a contractor at USAID. Having always aspired to be a biologist, his dream comes true as a citizen scientist cellular engineer.
MOHAMMAD ALAVI – CHARACTERIZING NOVEL BACTERIA
Just as Galileo stared through a telescope at the stars identifying each one, Mohammad stares through a microscope screening each bacteria found in the backyard. This unbounded research is powered by his unlimited curiosity to fnd new and undiscovered metabolic pathways.
Originating from Mohammads time working for the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), he started collecting and sequencing bacteria samples from the environment. Even though he has since moved on from that position he remains analyzing bacteria for metabolic potential, continuing his work with passion. His method of analysis starts with collecting samples of bacteria from the environment. Then he extracts the genome and ensures it is pure, after which he sends it off to get sequenced. Once sequenced, the genes are studied and examined for novel pathways. Mohammad makes use of multiple databases such as BLAST to cross check and verify the existence of the genome.
The trouble with unbounded research of this sort is the scarcity of funding due to the lack of a transparent and targeted goal. The fact of the matter is that this qualitative research is fundamentally different than that of its quantitative counterpart. Where most research has a goal in mind, Mohammads research does not have a defnite destination besides expanding the known matrix of knowledge. The results of Mohammads research would be the stepping stones for future innovations and technologies, he is essentially expanding the toolbox of biological innovation. This type of research is underappreciated and its importance should be recognized as a staple of innovation.
Mohammad Alavi graduated from George Washington University earning his PhD in microbiology and immunology. He worked at IMET for his postdoc and is currently stationed with the Environmental Protection Agency. His passion is science and its interdisciplinary application, the curiosity of which, he believes is the root of advancement.