The Future is Here

Does anyone else feel like 2023 flew by? Here are some of the many highlights from the Designer Glycans team in the last 6 months:

In the summer, both Annika and Madalen submitted their doctoral dissertations in Germany. Annika successfully defended her thesis in November. We wish Annika continued success with her postdoctoral journey at HHU (Düsseldorf) and the rewarding adventure for Madalen’s new industry role.

At UF, Talia (our first graduate student) completed the required PMCB courses and received the Davidson Graduate Travel Scholarship to participate in the Plant Biology 2023 meeting. While in Savannah, Georgia, she not only presented a talk about the intriguing roles of two glycosyl hydrolases in hemicellulose production but also explored several promising collaborations.

In August, Logan received the 2023 CALS Dean’s Award with full support for the next four years of his PhD. Logan then received a prize at the Florida Genetics Symposium for his poster on “Marchantia polymorpha as a Synthetic Biology Chassis for Plant Glycobiology”.

With the lab setup now complete, our team has rapidly expanded in recent months.

  • Lianna Larson re-joined the lab as a Biological Assistant for the Biofoundry project and we welcomed several additional students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
  • Abigail Lin (undergraduate student in Computer Science) recently arrived to implement custom protocols for the Opentrons robots and will be soon joined by a postdoctoral fellow to automate common molecular biology techniques.
  • Mair Edwards successfully completed her first PMCB graduate program rotation in our lab and will soon re-joining us for the rest of her PhD soon to work on the continuous directed evolution of enzymes (co-supervised with Andrew Hanson).
  • Yunhan Wang (a fellow UBC graduate) has been working on antimicrobial peptides since November and will soon complete her second PMCB rotation.
  • Kathryn DeLuca has been working with Talia since the fall and recently switched her major: a big win for team plants!
  • In mid-January, Ania Granadino arrived as a full-time visiting research scholar from Zamorano University in Honduras and has rapidly contributed to our plant experiments.

In related news, I joined the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, public-private partnership dedicated to advancing SynBio for national and global needs, and I have actively participated in the Education Working Group. In the fall of 2023, I coordinated a new Advances in Plant Synthetic Biology course, which was co-taught with Andrew Hanson. The first edition was a lot of fun for students and instructors alike, featuring interactive assignments with real-world impact. Who wouldn’t want to be a biotech consultant for their class project and evaluate SynBio start-ups?

I also presented several projects from the lab at the NIAMRRE Annual Conference (Gainesville), the XVI Plant Cell Wall Meeting (Malaga, Spain), ASABE Circular Bioeconomy Systems Day (Omaha, Nebraska), the ASHS Annual Conference (Orlando), the 7th Latin American Glycobiology Congress (Mexico City and Online) and other venues. Along the way, I had the opportunity to learn about new ways that plants can help to address societal problems (such as the incredibly tasty mission of the Do Good Farm in Orlando). With several new carbohydrate-related collaborations now appearing in print, we are excited to contribute timely discoveries on multiple research fronts.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the rewarding experience of co-organizing and hosting a series of SynBio webinars and meetings that continues to bring outstanding talent to UF:

Invited SpeakerHost InstitutionWebinar Date
Gozde DemirerAssistant Professor at California Institute of TechnologyOctober 17, 2022
Pamela SilverProfessor, Harvard Medical SchoolDecember 5, 2022
Nicola PatronSynBio Group Leader at Earlham Institute, UKFebruary 21, 2023
Tobias ErbDirector, Max Planck Institute, Marburg, GermanyFebruary 27, 2023
Jennifer NemhauserProfessor at University of WashingtonMarch 7, 2023
David Mendoza-CózatlAssociate Professor, University of MissouriSeptember 5, 2023
Scott LenaghanAssociate Professor, University of TennesseeOctober 3, 2023
Shai LawitDirector of Trait Discovery, PairwiseDecember 5, 2023
Leslie MitchellCo-Founder & CEO, NeochromosomeJanuary 9, 2024
Laura GunnAssistant Professor, Cornell UniversityFebruary 6, 2024
Jenn BrophyAssistant Professor, Stanford UniversityMarch 5, 2024
Naomi NakayamaReader, Imperial College London, UKApril 9, 2024
Michael C. JewettProfessor of Bioengineering, StanfordMay 7, 2024

I hope that your year is also off to a good start.

Best wishes,