Synthetic Biology At The Cell/Material Interface

In the Silberg Lab, we are applying synthetic biology across a range of interfaces, including: (1) the microbe-soil interface to understand and maximize ecosystem services, (2) the microbe-sediment interface to elucidate biological controls over elemental cycling in oceans, (3) the microbe-electrode interface to understand protein controls over electron flow in cells, and (4) the microbe-device interface to create new and useful bioelectronics.  



Microbes drive processes in the Earth system far exceeding their physical scale, affecting soil development, water quality, crop yields, and greenhouse gas production. To understand microbial contributions to these processes, we are applying a new class of biosensors that report on dynamic microbial behaviors using rare volatile gases. These gas-reporting microbes are being used in non-transparent matrices (soils and sediments) to address challenges related to agriculture, water, and ecosystem services.



The relative proportion of electrons flowing between different metabolic reactions in cells is a fundamental challenge of resource allocation essential to cell growth. We are constructing synthetic electron transport pathways to understand the cellular cycling efficiencies of low potential protein electron carriers in cells (ferredoxins and flavodoxins) and to create of useful bioelectronic devices that communicate cellular sensing of chemicals to devices using electrical communication.