Principle Investigator

Zengyi Shao

Associate Professor

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
NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC)
Interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate Program

Ph.D. – University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2009
B.S. – Nankai University, 2002
Email: | Tel: (515) 294-1132
Office: 4140 Biorenewables Research Laboratory (BRL), Ames, 50011

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Saptarshi Ghosh

Postdoctoral Fellow

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

Ph.D. – National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research, 2016
B.S. – Visva-Bharati University, 2008
Office: 4118 BRL

Graduate Students

Meirong Gao

CBE Ph.D. candidate

Project: Building Novel Biomanufacturing Platforms for Producing Shikimate Pathway Derivatives

M.S. – Shandong University, 2013
B.S. – Xiamen University, 2010
Office: 4130A BRL

Carmen Lopez

Microbiology Ph.D. candidate

Project: Investigating Genetic Context Dependency in Pathway Engineering

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

Aric Warner

Microbiology Ph.D. candidate                     (co-advised by Prof. Laura Jarboe)

Project: Engineering Stable Two- and Three-component Bacterial Consortia

B.A. – Taylor University, 2011
Office: 4122A BRL

Wan Sun

Microbiology Ph.D. candidate

Project: Engineering Acid Tolerance Yeast to Produce Dicarboxylic Acids

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

Deon Ploessl

CBE Ph.D. Candidate

Project: Programmable DNA Repair for Improved Genome Editing Outcomes

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

Yuxin Zhao

Visiting graduate student

Project: Exploring Optimal Genome Integration Sites for Pathway Engineering

Home Institute – Nankai University
B.S. – Northeast Agricultural University, 2015
Office: 4130D BRL



Zhanyi Yao

CBE graduate student

Project: Debugging the Issues with Multi-step Heterologous Expression.

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

Undergraduate Students

Payton Van Beek

CBE Sophomore


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 and Postdocs)

Dr. Lei Huang, Visiting Scholar, April 2019, currently working as an Associate Professor at Tianjin University of Technology.

Dr. Mingfeng Cao, Postdoc Fellow, 2013-2018, currently working as a Research Scientist in the Center for Advanced Bioenergy & Bioproducts Innovation at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Yanzhen Mei, Visiting Scholar, Oct 2017, currently working as an Associate Professor at Nanjing Normal University.

Le Zhao, Ph.D., CBE, June 2017, currently working as a postdoc (Reuben Peters’s group) at Iowa State University.

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 working as a Scientist at Joyn Bio (Boston, MA) after completing the postdoc training in Wyss Institute at Harvard University

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 working as a Bioprocess Scientist at Boehringer Ingelheim, San Francisco, CA.

Alumni (Previous Undergraduates)

Qianhe Su, B.S., CBE, 2016-2017, currently in the graduate program at Northwestern University, ChE.
Deon Ploessl, B.S., CBE, 2016, currently in the Ph.D. program at Iowa State University, CBE.
Yutong Wu, B.S., CBE, 2014-2016, currently in the Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech, CBE.
Yi-Chen Tu, B.S., CBE, 2014, currently in the graduate program at SUNY-Buffalo, Biomedical Engineering.
Ian Baer, CBE, 2015.
Korey Gramenz, B.S., CBE, 2014, currently working at Cambrex, Charles City, IA.
Laurel Limaye, B.S., CBE, 2014, currently working at 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)