Jenny is a plant glycobiologist who is interested in understanding the myriad ways that plants synthesize and use complex sugars: to build their cell wall, and to glycosylate other molecules, including proteins and lipids. Her team applys synthetic and systems biology tools with the overal goal to develop more sustainable bioenergy crops.
As part of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) we are deciphering how a cell wall is made and assembled, and applying this knowledge to the predictable engineering of dedicated biomass crops (primarily sorghum and switchgrass). As part of the m-CAFEs SFA (Microbial Community Analysis & Functional Evaluation in Soils Scientific Focus Area), we are exploring how roots interact with a synthetic microbial community. We aim to enhance those interactions via engineering, to support the development of more sustainable crops that require fewer inputs (e.g. irrigation, pesticides). For m-CAFEs, and other projects, we are making use of fabricated ecosystems (EcoFABs, EcoPODS), as we attempt to bridge the gap between data gathered in the lab and that collected in the field. Other projects include exploring how cell wall esters contribute to forest volatile emissions when trees undergo drought, and developing resources to support sorghum’s use in biotechnology research.