I am a 4th year PhD student working on synthetic carbon fixation in Escherichia coli and Cupriavidus necator.
I joined the Erb lab in 2022 to understand, design and implement new-to-nature carbon fixation pathways in bacteria to serve as a proof of principle for "better than nature" carbon fixation rates and/or yields that one day could be expanded towards implementation in higher plants.
The bacteria itself might also become useful as sources of so called single cell protein to feed an ever-increasing human population, especially if the carbon thereof is assimilated from the atmosphere or from emission hot spots such as steel mill waste streams.
We use several lines of evidence to prove the functionality of our novel pathways in the new host. The first and most important of which is growth-coupled selection. He we create a specific auxotrophy that can only be relieved by combined activity of our pathway enzymes, which results in the simple read-out of growth if our pathway "works". This growth-coupling can later also be exploited during adaptive laboratory evolution, as improvements in growth usually are derived from improved pathway and/or enzyme activity. We use additional classical methods such as 13C-labeling / carbon tracer experiments to validate predicted mass patterns in specific biomass components to confirm that carbon flux followed our implemented pathway.
If any of this sounds intriguing to you and you are looking for an internship or Bachelor/Master thesis opportunity please don't hesitate to contact us at