Dr. Shishir Chundawat, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Rutgers University
About the Seminar
The Glycan Engineering Laboratory (GEL) led by Dr. Chundawat takes a carbohydrate or ‘glycan-centric’ approach to sustainably address problems in the areas of bioenergy, biomedical, and biomaterials engineering. He has 12+ years of multidisciplinary expertise working with carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes); protein modeling, engineering, expression (using E. coli, yeast and cell free wheat germ based expression systems), purification, and characterization; carbohydrate chemistry and their processing; and developing novel analytical techniques for characterization of glycans and their interactions with proteins.
Lignocellulosic biomass provides a carbon-rich feedstock that can be converted into fuels or chemicals. However, biomass is ‘recalcitrant’ to cost-effective enzyme catalyzed deconstruction into fermentable sugars. The molecular level origins of biomass recalcitrance are thought to arise from the native crystalline structure of cellulose and the inhibitory role of lignin on carbohydrate-active enzymes or ‘CAZymes’. Here, I will highlight how my group uses a multistep chemo-enzymatic approach for enabling rapid biomass conversion into fermentable sugars. We use single-molecule force spectroscopy based characterization techniques coupled with CAZyme engineering to shed light on the rate-limiting steps of biomass deconstruction. We are also developing novel thermochemical processes (using ammonia) that can selectively extract lignin from biomass while simultaneously restructuring the native cellulose hydrogen-bond network to produce unnatural cellulose allomorphs like activated ‘cellulose III’ that enables rapid enzyme-catalyzed hydrolysis.