Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing Under Extreme Conditions: Developing Sustainable Engineering Enhancements

ChEMS Seminar

Featuring Tonya L. Peeples, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis and Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing
The University of Iowa

Location:  Engineering Lecture Hall 110
Refreshments to follow

Developing economically competitive processes which reduce the environmental footprint of chemical conversion remains a significant challenge to the wider application of biological catalysts. Still, the application of biological systems in the chemical process industries is valuable for the production of fuels, foods, pharmaceuticals, and other specialty chemicals. The Peeple research group studies the biological manufacture of valuable products using both enzymatic conversion and microbial biotransformation. For sustainable development, combinations of biological and conventional catalytic systems provide great potential. These chemo-enzymatic and multi-phase conversions involve conditions of extreme temperature, pH, pressure as well as hydrophobicity. Biocatalysts under investigation include oxidative and hydrolytic enzymes, traditional fungal and microbial fermentation catalysts, and extremophilic microbes. Reactions under study include the conversion of high volume organic chemicals as well as of renewable lignocellulosic feedstocks. In addressing such conversions, organisms from extreme environments represent an expanding pool of untapped transformation capacity.  Lessons from extreme systems are being used to engineer stability in more conventional biocatalysts. The expanded application of these research endeavors will establish biocatalytic conversions as environmentally beneficial and economically viable synthesis strategies.

About the Speaker
Tonya Peeples is an associate professor in the University of Iowa College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Her specific research interests include interfacial catalysis, mineral biotransformation and particle biogenesis, engineering stability in microbial catalysts, microbial physiology in extreme environments, and enhancing biodegradation efficiencies for environmental toxins. A member of the UI Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing, Professor Peeples received a General Electric Faculty for the Future award in 1996, a the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award in 1997, and the Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers in 2004.  Professor Peeples received the 2005 Distinguished Service Award from the Minority Affairs Committee of The American Institute of Chemical Engineers for her work on recruiting and retaining underrepresented minority students in science, engineering and mathematics, and she is PI for the UI College of Engineering Graduate Assistantships in Areas of National Need (GAANN) training program.  Professor Peeples also serves as the Director of Ethnic Inclusion Efforts for Iowa Engineering.