Koffas Research Group

Network and Metabolic Engineering

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Lab Members

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Jian Zha
Email: zhaj@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Chemical Engineering, Tianjin University, China, 2008
Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, Tianjin University, China, 2013

Project
My current project focuses on metabolic engineering of bacteria for overproduction of flavonoid compounds. My research involves the application of the prevailing technologies in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, such as pathway assembly and pathway balancing.

Research Interests
I am interested in the development and application of cutting-edge technologies in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology. Especially, it is my prior interest to produce many natural products through microbial fermentation of engineered microorganisms instead of costly and environment-unfriendly methods such as extraction from plants.

Future Plans
I want to establish my own team and lab in the near future. I will keep moving towards that dream. I believe metabolic engineering and synthetic biology will make our future better!


Dr. Rufeng Wang
Email: rufengwang007@gmail.com

Education
B.S. Pharmaceutical Science, Qinghai University for Nationalities, 2009
M.S. Microbiology and Biochemical Pharmacy, Wuhan Polytechnic University, 2012
Ph.D. Pharmacognosy, China Pharmaceutical University, 2015

Project
My specific research is currently being performed to develop a method involves biosynthesis and metabolic engineering of Saccharomyces cerevisiae for the high titer production of bioactive flavonoids.

Research Interests
Biocatalysis, biosynthesis and metabolic engineering of microorganisms for the efficient and sustainable production of chemicals ranging from high-value pharmaceuticals and cosmetic ingredients.

I am looking into a synergism of specific enzymatic activities, bioprocess optimization and metabolic engineering promises a commercially viable alternative to the production of bioactive chemicals in virtue of the establishment and application of high-throughput screening method for the selection of best-performing cell factories.

Future Plans
My expectation is to achieve the industrial production for several kinds of rare traditional Chinese medicine-derived therapeutic compounds with the joint efforts of trustworthy partners.


Graduate Students

Cliff Morrison
Email: Clifford.S.Morrison@gmail.com

Education
B.S. Chemistry, Biochemistry, University of North Texas, 2014
Ph.D. Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2019

Project
I will investigate the ability to develop recombinant microorganisms that can potentially utilize methanol as a carbon source. Understanding how electron equivalents are transported into cellular organisms, and generating microorganisms that can grow on alternative carbon sources using tools from synthetic biology, holds great promise for the next generation of sustainable bio-fuel alternatives.

Research Interests
My primary interest is in the sustainable production of value-added products and energy using metabolic engineering and synthetic biology.

Future Plans
I intend to pursue a career in the biotechnology industry.


Kamil S. Gedeon
Email: gedeok@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Chemical-Biological Engineering, MIT, 2011
Ph.D. Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2020

Project
My research project is focused on increasing fatty acid production for biofuels. I will be utilizing pathway balancing to optimize engineered microbes. Subsequently, I will use the engineered microbes in co-culture fermentation to improve volumetric production, yields, and production rates. I am co-advised by Dr. Mattheos Koffas and Dr. Cynthia Collins.

Research Interests
Creating novel biotechnology platforms for production of high-value and commodity compounds.

Future Plans
To return to industry and continue my career in the biotechnology industry.


Asher Williams
Email: willia9@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, New York University Tandon School of Engineering, 2015
Ph.D. Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2020

Project
I am currently co-advised by Dr. Koffas and Dr. Linhardt. My research project will involve the biosynthesis of chondroitin/dermatan sulfate through metabolic engineering of Escherichia coli.

Research Interests
My research interests lie in the area of protein engineering and I aim to develop expertise in the area of metabolic engineering.


Abinaya Badri
Email: badria@rpi.edu

Education
B.Tech Industrial Biotechnology, SASTRA University, Thanjavur, India, 2013
M.S. Research in Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, 2016
Ph.D. Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2020

Project
High value biomolecules are game-changers in several industries. However, efficient and controlled production of these biological molecules almost always involves the interplay of several metabolic and regulatory processes in the cell. My work (co-advised by Prof. Mattheos Koffas and Prof. Robert Linhardt) focuses on employing concepts from networks and control systems to improve the design of the cellular blueprint for glycosaminoglycan biosynthesis in E. coli.

Research Interests
My primary interests lie in engineering the metabolism of microorganisms for industrial purposes. More specifically, I am interested in transforming concepts from other fields of science and engineering and adapting them to biological systems to markedly improve the scope of their industrial capabilities.

Future Plans
I want to establish my base in translational research bridging basic to applied sciences. I plan to continue researching as a scientist in this interdisciplinary area of metabolic engineering, thereby accruing a wide base of expertise. In due course, I also want to play an active part in being able to actually start an industry based off of my research and successfully running it.


Matthew Wong
Email: wongm6@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, 2016
Ph.D. Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2021

Project
My research project is the cell-free production of biofuels. The goal is to optimize an immobilized system of enzymes to convert a cellular intermediate to the alcohol, Isobutanol. I am also researching membrane pervaporation to take the reaction broth and separate out Isobutanol. For this project, I am being co-advised by Dr. Koffas and Dr. Belfort.

Research Interests
My research interests lie in the development of biofuels for a sustainable future.

Future Plans
To pursue a career in the biotechnology industry



Visiting Scholars

Xinyi Zan
Email: zanx@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Food Science and Technology, Xuchang University, 2011
M.S. Food Science and Technology, Jiangsu University, 2014
Ph.D. Food Science and Technology, Jiangnan University, Expected Dec 2018

Project
My research in China is focused on the role of lipases in lipid metabolism in oleaginous fungus Mucor circinelloides. The project in RPI will focus microbial production of ε-poly-lysine in Corynebacterium strains.

Research Interests
My interests include metabolic engineering, systems biology, fermentation, and protein engineering. I will focus on production of high-valued nutritional poly-unsaturated fatty acids and valuable biofuels using by metabolic engineering.

Future Plans
I want to continue researching as a scientist in metabolic engineering and achieve the industrial production for high-valued nutritional poly-unsaturated fatty acids in microorganism.


Kai Xia
Email: xiakai333@126.com

Education
B.E. Biological Bioengineering, School of Food Science and Biotechnology, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Hangzhou, China, 2013
M.S. Biochemical Engineering, School of Food Science and Biotechnology, Zhejiang Gongshang University,Hangzhou, China, 2016
Ph.D. Food Science, School of Food Science and Biotechnology, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Hangzhou, China, Ongoing

Project
My projects in China are focused on the resistance mechanisms of Acetobacter pasteurianus, mainly depicting the connections between the high acetic acid resistance with potent signal pathways. My research in Dr. Koffas' lab is on the application of CRISPR-Cas system in the modification of yeast metabolic pathways, focusing on Toehold regulated systems.

Research Interests
I am interested in studying the role of regulating systems such as quorum sensing, two-component systems in bacteria upon unfavorable niches. I like to explore novel genome editing systems such as CRISPR, so as to develop the molecular techniques and benefit the functional research of unknown genes. I also like doing the fermentation, especially using constructed strains to produce products.

Future Plans
I want to be a professor and researcher in the future. My aim is to impart what I have learned to people who like science, especially the microbiology. I want to build my own lab and have my own team, so I can do what I am interested.



Undergraduate Students

Kent Rapp
Email: rappk@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Chemical and Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2018

Research Interests
I am interested primarily in the development of complex systems using microorganisms, namely for the production of pharmaceuticals.

Future Plans
I plan to pursue a doctoral degree to continue my research in bioengineering, eventually working in the biotechnology industry.


James (JJ) Hu
Email: huj@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Biology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2017
M.S. Biochemistry/Biophysics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2018

Research Interests
I am currently working on an electrochemical bioreactor, which is an intersection of a number of my research interests: biochemistry, microbiology, and metabolic engineering.

Future Plans
I plan on continuing my research on the electrochemical bioreactor, as well as pursing my Master's in Biochemistry/Biophysics at RPI. After graduation, I plan on applying to medical school.


Thomas Beusse
Email: beusst@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Chemical Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2019

Research Interests
My interests include biofuel production, pharmaceutical production, and the optimization of an electrochemical bioreactor process for production of value-added products.

Future Plans
After graduating with my chemical engineering degree, I plan to pursue a career in industry. I potentially may pursue a masters or Ph.D. after receiving a few years of work experience.


Andrew Morgan
Email: morgaa5@rpi.edu

Education
B.S. Chemical Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Expected May 2020

Research Interests
I am currently working on gene expression and optimizing the fermentation of bioproducts in E. Coli. I am really interested in microbiology, metabolic engineering and biochemistry.

Future Plans
I would like to go into the pharmaceutical industry after I graduate.