graduate students. In 2004, she received the Sigma Xi award for excellence in graduate research mentoring and, in 2008, received the Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. Her research area focuses on the genetics of the sulfate-reducing bacteria as a tool to explore energy generation in this anaerobe as it affects bioremediation capacities.
Robert Kelly received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia and, following 2 years at DuPont’s Marshall Laboratory in Philadelphia, his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University. He was formerly on the faculty in Chemical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and is now in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University, where he also directs the university’s Biotechnology Program. His research program focuses on the biology and biotechnology of extremophilic microorganisms.
Janet Westpheling is an associate professor of genetics at the University of Georgia. She received her B.S. in microbiology from Purdue University (1973) and her Ph.D. in genetics from John Innes Centre, Norwich, England (1980). Dr. Westpheling’s research interests include the rate-limiting step in the conversion of cellulosic material from crop plants such as poplar or switchgrass to simple sugars used for fermentation to ethanol in the recalcitrance of complex substrates, such as cellulose, xylan, and lignin, to simple mono- and polysaccharides. The focus of her research is to use functional and structural genomics-based methods, in conjunction with classical genetics and biochemical approaches, to identify novel biocatalytic (purified enzymes) and metabolic strategies (using whole cells) for bioenergy conversion. This research is part of a long-term collaboration between her lab and the laboratory of M. W. W. Adams in the Department of Biochemistry, focusing on the biotechnological potential of hyperthermophilic microorganisms and enzymes. Dr. Westpheling and her colleagues have developed genetic tools for manipulation of Pyrococcus furiosus, a hyperthermophilic fermentative anaerobic archaean capable of biomass conversion at or above temperatures of 100°C, and Anaerocellum thermophilum, a thermophilic, anaerobic Gram-positive bacterium, unique in its ability to efficiently utilize untreated cellulosic biomass. This work fits into the larger intellectual context of using classical (high-temperature microbial bioprocessing, large-scale protein purification) and modern (structural genomics, bioinformatics, transcriptional response analysis, gene replacement/mutational analysis) approaches to study extremophile biology and biotechnology as this relates to bioenergy conversion.