Principal Investigator

Tel: (515) 294-1132
Office: 4140 Biorenewables Research Laboratory (BRL), Ames, 50011
CV-updated in Dec. 2021

Dr. Zengyi Shao

Associate Professor

NIH MIRA R35 Award (2021)
Bailey Research Career Development Award (2021)
Vernon Guse Faculty Fellow (2021-2024)
Jack R. and Carol A. Johnson Faculty Fellow (2017-2019)
NSF CAREER Award (2018)
Iowa Energy Center Impact Award (2016)
National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Award (2010-2012)

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
The NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC)
Interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate Program
The Ames Laboratory
The DOE Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI)

Ph.D. – University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2009
B.S. – Nankai University, 2002

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Yuxin Zhao

Postdoctoral Fellow

Project: Probing the Integration and Expression Hotspots of Nonconventional Yeasts for Producing High-value Chemicals

Ph.D. – Nankai University, 2020
B.S. – Northeast Agricultural University, 2015
Office: 4130D BRL

Graduate Students

Carmen Lopez

Microbiology Ph.D. candidate

Project: Investigating the Applications of Non-coding DNA Sequences in Pathway Engineering

B.S. – Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, 2014
Office: 4130B BRL

Deon Ploessl

CBE Ph.D. Candidate

Project: Development of Novel CRISPR Platforms to Facilitate Nonconventional Yeast Engineering and Mitochondrial DNA Editing

B.S. – Iowa State University, 2016
Office: 4122A BRL

Wan Sun

Microbiology Ph.D. candidate

Project: Engineering Acid Tolerance Yeast to Produce Dicarboxylic Acids as Polymer Precursors

M.S. – Peking Union Medical College, 2015
B.S. – Henan University, 2012
Office: 4122C BRL

Zhanyi Yao

CBE Ph.D. candidate

Project: Debugging the Issues with Multi-copy Pathway Integration in Yeasts.

B.S. – Iowa State University, 2018
Office: 4130C BRL

Daniel Bun

CBE graduate student

Project: Deciphering the Efficiency of Transposon Systems in Yeasts

B.S. – North Carolina State University, 2020
Office: 4th floor BRL

Jeniffer Louise Perea-Lopez

CBE graduate student

Project: Development of a Rapid Strategy for Creating a Parental Yeast Working Strain

B.S. – Wellesley College, 2019
Office: 4th floor BRL

Student Awards

Miguel Suastegui: Best Presentation Award of BIOT (2017)

(American Chemical Society, Division of Biochemical Technology, San Francisco)

Payton Van Beek: Griswold Undergraduate Internship (2017)

Deon Ploessl: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP, 2016)

(2,000 awardees from 17,000 applicants)

Deon Ploessl: Presidential Fellowship (2016)

(single new student awardee per department per year)

Miguel Suastegui: Research Excellence Award, College of Engineering (2017)

(single awardee per department per semester)

Miguel Suastegui: Research Award, Graduate and Professional Student Senate (2015)

(1 of the 5 graduate awardees for the entire university per year)

Alumni (Previous Graduates, Postdocs, and Visiting Scholars)

Aric Warner, Ph.D., CBE, July 2021, currently Scientist at Sustainable Conversion Ventures (Sun Lakes, AZ).

Ph.D. Thesis: Microbial Engineering, Characterization, and Applications through Novel Data Processing and Synthetic Biology Systems (co-advised by Dr. Laura Jarboe)

Meirong Gao, Ph.D., CBE, May 2019, currently Research Scientist at Corteva Agriscience (Johnston, IA).

Ph.D. Thesis: Designing High-performance Yeast Factories for the Production of High-value Aromatics based on a Novel Species and its Consortia

Dr. Saptarshi Ghosh, Postdoc Fellow, 2018-2019.

Project: Developing Transposon-based Platform for Engineering Nonconventional Yeasts

Dr. Lei Huang, Visiting Scholar, April 2019, currently Associate Professor at Tianjin University of Technology.
Dr. Mingfeng Cao, Postdoc Fellow, 2013-2018, currently Professor at Xiamen University, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.

Project: Unraveling Core Design Principles to Explore the World of Nonconventional Yeasts

Dr. Yanzhen Mei, Visiting Scholar, Oct 2017, currently Associate Professor at Nanjing Normal University.
Le Zhao, Ph.D., CBE, June 2017.

Ph.D. Thesis: Exploring the Production of High-value Compounds in Plant Catharanthus roseus Hairy Roots and Yeast Yarrowia lipolytica

Miguel Suastegui, Ph.D., CBE, May 2017, currently Scientist at Joyn Bio (Boston, MA).

Ph.D. Thesis: Metabolic Engineering Strategies for High-level Production of Aromatic Amino Acid Pathway Derivatives in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Lili Zheng, M.E., CBE, June 2015, currently Senior Scientist at LakePharma (San Francisco, CA).

Alumni (Previous Undergraduates)

David Plotnik, B.S., CBE, 2020.
Infant Nathaniel, B.S., CBE, 2020.
Matthew Schaschwary, B.S., CBE, 2020.
Trang Hoang, CBE, 2019-2020; joined the Ph.D. program at Michigan University, CBE
Marissa Gustafson, CBE and then Computer Science, 2019.
Payton Van Beek, B.S., CBE, 2018.
Qianhe Su, B.S., CBE, 2016-2017; joined in the graduate program at Northwestern University, ChE.
Deon Ploessl, B.S., CBE, 2016; joined the Ph.D. program at Iowa State University, CBE.
Yutong Wu, B.S., CBE, 2014-2016; then graduated from the Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech, CBE; and currently Associate Professor at Nanjing Tech University
Yi-Chen Tu, B.S., CBE, 2014; joined the graduate program at SUNY-Buffalo, Biomedical Engineering.
Ian Baer, B.S. CBE, 2015.
Korey Gramenz, B.S., CBE, 2014; joined Cambrex, Charles City, IA.
Laurel Limaye, B.S., CBE, 2014; joined Nalco, Naperville, IL.

Summer Programs

Eric Anderson (Carlisle High School, “Modulating Gene Expression through Genetic Context”, CBiRC RET, 2017)
Emma House (Wayne State University, “Multilevel Engineering of Saccharomyces cerevisiae for the Production of Muconic Acid from Glucose”, CBiRC REU, 2016)
Nick Leung (Ames High School, “Designing Novel Fatty Acid Sensors for High Throughput Product Profiling”, Young Engineers&Scientists Program, Fall 2015)
Dana Tribby (University of Minnesota at Duluth, “Promoter Characterization in Scheffersomyces stipitis”, CBiRC REU, 2015)
Elaine Butler (Grand View University, “Developing a Fatty Acid Sensor Based on FadR Crystal Structure”, CBiRC REU, 2014)
Nam Nguyen (Des Moines Area Community College, “Increasing Muconic Acid Production in the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae”, BioMaP REU, 2014)