Helen Park, 2018, Chemical and Biological Engineering

This summer, I interned in the Avalos Laboratory. The mission of the lab is, broadly speaking, to develop sustainable solutions to environmental challenges through synthetic biology. Specifically, microbial chemical production, which can optimize metabolic pathways and is therefore a promising key for the production of new forms of biofuel energy. I learned biological lab techniques as well as methods to design and test the plasmids and genetic circuits I helped create. My project involved genetic and metabolic manipulation and optimization of the yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The two main goals of my summer internship were: to optimize genetic circuits using light inducible promoters and to measure the efficiency of those circuits visually using the fluorescent reporter protein GFP. We also quantified our circuits’ output of the higher-chain biofuel isobutanol, which was our main desired product. Importantly, we found higher concentrations of isobutanol than ethanol, the yeast’s natural product. I plan to continue the optimization process during the school year by introducing new genetic changes. I found the research exciting because it addresses the real need for alternative energy sources.