It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. In this case, the “job” is the breakdown of lignin, the structural molecule that gives plants strength and rigidity. One of the most abundant terrestrial polymers (large molecules made of repeating subunits called monomers) on Earth, lignin surrounds valuable plant fibers and other molecules that could be converted into biofuels and other commodity chemicals – if we could only get past that rigid plant cell wall.
On January 23, 2020, Berkeley Lab hosted a workshop on opportunities afforded by single-cell technologies for energy and environmental science, as well as conceptual and technological grand challenges that must be tackled to apply these powerful approaches to plants, fungi and algae. This event, which was spearheaded by Diane Dickel in the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Division, brought together a diverse group of leaders in functional genomics technologies from academia, the National Laboratories, and local research institutions.
The projects of 15 Biosciences Area scientists and engineers received funding through the FY21 Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program.
The projects of 14 Biosciences Area scientists and engineers received funding through the FY20 Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. The funded projects span a diverse array of topics and approaches including: developing closed-loop plastics from biogenic feedstocks; reimagining a root system optimized for plant-microbe interactions; and creating computational tools for extracting macromolecular conformational dynamics. Lab-wide, 96 projects were selected from a field of 168 proposals. Biosciences Area efforts account for 18.5 percent of the $23 million allocated.
Jenny Mortimer, Deputy Vice President of the Feedstocks Division at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Scientist with the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) Division, participated at a 2018 AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy panel entitled “Science Competitiveness in Relation to Public Support for Science”. Panelists discussed how the scientific community must work to maintain societal relevance and build trust. Mortimer presented a code of ethics for scientists recently developed by the World Economic Forum’s Young Scientists community. The code serves as a tool to nurture a positive change of culture in the research world by not only guiding and shaping the behavior of individuals but also the processes of the scientific institutions that are to facilitate this cultural shift.