I’m extremely grateful to the GLBRC for accepting me into this program and to the many GLBRC members responsible for making this program possible. I worked in the TerAvest lab with Dr. Magdalena Felczak working to allow the bacterium Zymomonas Mobilis to metabolize formate and acetate into ethanol. I cloned a gene meant to add that ability into a plasmid vector, transformed the vector into E. coli, and transferred the vector into Z. mobilis through conjugation. Once I had the strain, I ran growth curve experiments and metabolite analyses to determine what the cells were actually doing.
I was an engineering student in a synthetic biology lab, and while I had some experience with the lab techniques, I’d never conducted research before. At first, I had little confidence in my abilities but everyone in my lab was extremely encouraging and, in the end, I succeeded in generating a strain that metabolizes formate!
Outside the lab, MSU’s campus is beautiful, and there were so many gardens and trails to discover. Seriously, this campus is gigantic! We were given the chance to hear from all types of people from graduate students and professors to industry professionals. The other participants all came from wildly different backgrounds, but over the summer, we became lifelong friends. Every week, the five of us would explore at least one new place, from the MSU museum and Lake Lansing, to joining fellow MSU researchers on trips to Detroit and Lake Michigan, to finally meeting the other GLBRC participants at the Kellogg Biological Station.
Overall, I had an incredible experience with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and I learned a ton about bioenergy development and the career paths available in that field. Highly recommend this program to anyone interested in the intersection of biotechnology and sustainable energy!