Research

Biological reactions are spatially- and temporally-controlled processes involving biomolecular dynamics and chemical transformations, which occur at the molecular (nanometer) and cellular (micrometer) scales.  The ability to capture in real-time the behavior of individual biomolecules, as well as their system-level interactions, is crucial for a mechanistic understanding of biological processes. However, most current microscopic techniques require extensive sample preparation or labeling steps to achieve nanometer/micrometer resolution of imaging biological samples, and these steps introduce artifacts. Our research addresses these challenges by using non-destructive, label-free imaging techniques, which are developed to promote multimodality and integration with other analytical techniques, especially single cell omics. Our current projects focuses on fundamental understanding of plant cell wall architecture and the deconstruction processes of biomass conversion for biofuels production.

Plant Cell Wall Structure

  • Nanoscale assembly of the plant cell walls
  • Plant cell wall architecture changes under chemical and enzymatic treatments
  • In situ chemical mapping using label-free microspectroscopy

Carbohydrate-active Enzymes

  • Cellulase biochemistry
  • Imaging enzymatic activity at the single molecular level

Applications

  • Biomass to biofuels
  • Biomaterials

 Enabling Technologies

  • Atomic force microscopy (AFM)
  • Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) Microscopy
  • Single Cell RNA-seq and Bioinformatics