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Prof. Michelle O'Malley wins the Jr. Faculty Shark Tank People's Choice award at the 15th annual UC Systemwide Bioengineering Symposium June 18-20, 2014 at UC Irvine

Prof. Michelle O'Malley (Chem Engr and CBE, UC Santa Barbara) wins the Junior Faculty Shark Tank People's Choice Award at the 15th annual Systemwide Bioengineering Symposium held at UC Irvine June 18-20, 2014 for her presentation on "Fueling Sustainability: Turning Marine Pests into Commodity Chemicals"

Presentation Abstract: We aim to produce renewable fuels and commodity chemicals by converting marine tunicates into combustible biogas. Cellulose-rich tunicates are overabundant in the Santa Barbara Channel, and biofoul virtually all man-made structure (e.g. boats, cages, platforms) that are exposed to the water. The conversion platform we will develop relies on the action of anaerobic fungi, which are native to the digestive tract of large herbivores. These microbes have evolved unique abilities to degrade fibrous cellulose through the secretion of intricate cellulase complexes called fungal cellulosomes that breakdown cellulose into fermentable sugars. Though anaerobic fungi naturally produce alcohols, we will funnel fermentation end products to combustible biogas through co-culture with methanogenic microbes. Thus, the development of this co-culture strategy will result in a portable anaerobic digestor, for which the input is tunicate biomass and the output is biogas. In this way, our technology will convert overabundant marine pests into value-added chemical products.