Dr. Richard Sayre,

Senior Research Scientist, New Mexico Consortium and Los Alamos National Laboratory

505 412-6532 (o)
Dr. Richard Sayre is Senior Research Scientist at the New Mexico Consortium working in conjunction with Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Sayre is a former member of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (DDPSC) where he served as the Director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car (ERAC) Institute for Renewable Fuels (2008-2011). From 2005-2010, he was Director of the BioCassava Plus Program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and from 2009-2011, was the Director of the Center for Advanced Biofuel Systems a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center. He is currently the Director of the PACE (Producing Algae for Coproducts and Energy) algal biofuels consortium funded by DOE-EERE-BETO. Sayre was formerly Chair of the Department of Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology at the Ohio State University. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil during the spring of 2007 and was elected a Fellow of AAAS in 2011. Sayre received his B.A. from Humboldt State University, Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and did post-doctoral work at Harvard University.

Dr. Sangeeta Negi,

Research Scientist, New Mexico Consortium

505 412-6546 (o)
Dr. Negi's currently works on cross talk between two plant hormones, auxin and ethylene on root development in Arabidopsis and tomato. Using molecular genetic approaches and traditional plant breeding techniques Dr. Negi explores different aspects of plant growth and development particularly in the area of root architecture and productivity. In the Sayre laboratory Dr. Negi's work focuses on characterization of mutants altered in light-harvesting antenna complexes, using variety of biochemical and biophysical techniques. The aim of this work is to understand efficient functioning of the photosynthetic antenna systems and use this knowledge to increase the photosynthetic efficiency in green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

Dr. Negi received her Ph.D. degree in Microbiology from Dr. Hari Singh Gour University, Sagar India.

Dr. Sowyma Subramanian,

Associate Research Scientist, New Mexico Consortium

505 412-6536 (o)
Sowyma works in the Sayre lab on several initiatives: 1. To improve the photosynthetic efficiency in biofuel feedstocks by a) engineering novel photosystems in chloroplast to enhance light capture and b) rationale metabolic engineering of the Plastoquinone biosynthetic (PQ) pathway to enhance the photosynthesis reaction kinetics, 2. To improve the carbon concentrating efficiency of C3 plants. She uses microalgae, Arabidopsis thaliana and Camelina sativa for these projects. Her interests include understanding and improving photosynthesis efficiency, metabolic engineering and studying metalloenzymes structure/function relationships.

Sowmya completed her doctoral research at the University of Georgia, in Athens, GA under the guidance of Prof. Michael K. Johnson. At UGA, her research work involved characterizing and deciphering the structure/function of several iron-sulfur proteins. Her major thesis projects involved investigating the physical basis for the observation of valence-delocalized [2Fe-2S]+ clusters in the Cys-to-Ser variants of Aquiflex aeolicus ferredoxin-4 and characterizing the nature and role of iron sulfur clusters in radical SAM enzymes.

Dr. Tawanda Zidenga,

Associate Research Scientist, New Mexico Consortium

505 412-6538 (o)
The Bio-Cassava Plus Program for bio-fortification of cassava is funded by the Grand Challenge in Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The specific research objectives include; increasing bio-available levels of iron in roots, reducing cyanogen toxicity, increasing root protein content, reducing root post-harvest physiological deterioration, and developing root-specific promoters for transgene expression in cassava. Additional research programs focus on starch metabolism and biofuel production from cassava.

Tawanda joined the Sayre group in 2005 as a doctoral student at the Ohio State University, working on cyanide metabolism and post-harvest physiological deterioration in cassava. This work showed that cyanogenesis is central to post-harvest physiological deterioration in cassava via oxidative damage. By overexpressing the cyanide-insensitive plant terminal oxidase known as Alternative oxidase, which reduces accumulation of reactive oxygen species, we extended the shelf-life of cassava from three days to more than two weeks. Tawanda has also contributed to the Information Systems for Biotechnology News Report (Blacksburg, VA), and is an alumni of the University of Zimbabwe Crop Science department.

Dr. Elton Goncalves,

Associate Research Scientist, New Mexico Consortium

505-431-0010 (o)
Elton joined Dr. Sayre’s group at NMC in January of 2016 to work on the PACE (Producing Algae for Coproducts and Energy) project. His goal is to employ multiple strategies (e.g.: molecular and nutrient optimization) for algal crop protection against bacteria, fungus, virus, metazoans, etc. Such efforts are fundamental to secure consistent biomass productivity and bring algal biofuels to an economically feasible scenario. Elton is also exploring novel and practical methods to monitor algal lipid accumulation in the field.

Elton received his Ph.D. in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Florida in 2015. Under the mentorship of Dr. Bala Rathinasabapathi, Elton investigated the metabolic regulation of triacylglycerol (TAG) accumulation in green algae, especially in regards to the effects of Nitrogen starvation (-N). His studies revealed that certain Chlorella strains respond extremely fast to –N, which induces TAG accumulation by both the recycling of acyl groups from membrane lipids and de novo routes. Moreover, his proteomics study in short-term N-starved Chlorella revealed several novel proteins highly modulated by -N, including an myb-like transcription factor (ROC40) that was previously implicated in circadian rhythm control in Chlamydomonas. He demonstrated that the roc40 mutant in Chlamydomonas is partially impaired in TAG accumulation upon –N condition.

Dr. Panagiotis Lymperopoulos,

Associate Research Scientist, New Mexico Consortium

505-431-0010 (o)
Panagiotis Lymperopoulus received his Bachelor degree in Agricultural Sciences in Romania in 2003. He finished his Masters in Molecular Plant Breeding and Biotechnology at the University of Bangor, Wales in 2007, and in October 2007, he joined Professor’s Paul Jarvis laboratory to start his Ph.D at the University of Leicester, England. There he investigated the analyses of the translocon of the outer envelope membrane of chloroplast (TOC) complex proteins, special focus to atToc90, with the different client-specific import pathways. His work suggested limited functional redundancy between atToc90 and other TOC receptors. By tagging TOC receptors known to act in each of the photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic import pathways, he was able to purify different TOC complexes from transgenic plants using optimized the Tandem Affinity Purification (TAP) tagging technique.

In 2013 Lymperopoulus joined the laboratory of Professor Adrian Clarke at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. There as a Postdoctoral Fellow he worked on a variety of projects regarding Clp proteases in cyanobacteria and plant chloroplasts to determine their main structural and functional characteristics. His main focus was to elucidate the function of stromal atClpD protease in Arabidopsis, and has also been involved in a chloroplast transformation project, where he worked on identifying protein substrates for the chloroplast Clp protease in vascular plants. The recombinant Synechococcus ClpP3/R core associates well to the main chloroplast Hsp93 (ClpC) chaperone in Arabidopsis - ClpC1. To trap possible native substrates, he has expressed the cyanobacterial clpP and clpR genes from the tobacco plastid genome. By using specific antibodies for both ClpP3 and ClpR he determined if they are expressed and accumulate inside the tobacco chloroplasts. In 2015 Dr. Lymperopoulus has joined Dr. Richard’s Sayre laboratory at the New Mexico Consortium where his main focus is in introducing carbon concentrating mechanisms from algae into chloroplasts in order to elevate internal chloroplast CO2 concentration, and thereby reducing photorespiration.

Dr. Jeanette Velasquez,

Associate Research Scientist, New Mexico Consortium

505-431-0010 (o)
Jeanette joined New Mexico Consortium in 2014 as a volunteer working with Dr. Sathish Rajamani in algal bioengineering and strain characterization. Currently, she is working as a postdoctoral researcher in crop protection of Chlorella sorokiniana and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. She is developing strategies to kill pathogens such as rotifers and Vampirevibrio chlorellavorus that affect the algae biofuel production.

Jeanette got her undergraduate degree in Science with major in Biology from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima-Peru. She obtained her master and PhD degrees from Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, The Netherlands. Her PhD project was to study the molecular mechanisms and function of membrane proteins that play a role in germination of Bacillus subtilis spores. These proteins were overexpressed, purified and reconstituted in membrane vesicles to further biochemical characterization. She found that one of the germination proteins; SpoVAC has a channel like activity. She used biochemical assays and electrophysiology assays (patch clamp) to characterize these proteins.

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