The research lab at Dartmouth led by Professor Lee Lynd engages in a range of research activities unified by the overarching goal of cost-effective production of cellulosic biofuels that benefit people and the environment. These activities draw from a diversity of academic disciplines, with molecular biology, microbiology, chemical/biochemical engineering providing the foundation for the first three. Consistent with the "Pasteur's Quadrant" model articulated by Donald Stokes (Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1997), we see advancing applied capability and increased fundamental understanding as convergent and mutually-reinforcing, and we aspire to work in this mode.
A central theme of the Lynd Lab is processing cellulosic biomass in a single step without added enzymes. Such "consolidated bioprocessing" (CBP) offers documented potential for transformative cost reductions. Although we are focused on production of ethanol, a promising renewable fuel, the CBP strategy is potentially applicable to a broad range of fuels and chemicals. Additionally, ethanol has strong potential as an intermediate for production of larger fuel molecules preferred for difficult-to-electrify heavy-duty transport modes.
Dr. Lynd is assisted in running the lab by management team members: Research Professor Dr. Dan Olson (Metabolic Engineering); and Research Scientists Dr. Evert Holwerda (Microbial Cellulose Utilization) and Dr. Mark Laser (Bioenergy Intensive Futures). The Lynd group includes post doctoral associates, graduate students, technicians, undergraduates, and, from time to time, visiting scientists. Our activities are enhanced by close collaborations with members of the DOE Center for Bioenergy Innovation and a growing network of colleagues around the world.
Students may work toward graduate degrees in the Lynd Lab in either engineering or the life sciences. Information on graduate programs, degree requirements, and admissions may be found at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering and the Molecular and Cell Biology Program. Prospective students are encouraged to contact Professor Lynd to evaluate the extent to which their interests and professional development could be served by working toward a graduate degree with thesis work as a member of the Lynd Lab. Students with undergraduate preparation in the sciences who wish to pursue graduate work in engineering are encouraged to inquire and may note that this path was taken by several current and former group members, including Professor Lynd himself.
PhD graduate Mikayla Balch (pictured)—who studied cotreatment of lignocellulose to enhance solubilization in lieu of thermochemical pretreatment—is now a Research Scientist at KnipBio.
Jingxuan (Lexie) Cui, former graduate student in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program working on metabolic engineering of cellulolytic microbes for production of biofuels, is now an Organism Engineer at Ginkgo Bioworks.
PhD graduate Dhananjay ("Jay") Beri, who focused on enzyme discovery and fermentation optimization for the conversion of corn fiber to ethanol using a thermophilic coculture, is now a researcher at Visolis Inc. in Boston.
Socio-environmental and land-use impacts of double-cropped maize ethanol in Brazil
Abstract: Agricultural intensification, and particularly double cropping, has been suggested as a practical strategy to reconcile biofuel feedstock production with other land-use priorities. Here we assess ethanol production under conditions representative of current practice in the west central region of Brazil: maize grown as a second crop with soybean on land that formerly grew a single soybean crop, and energy processed from a combined heat and power plant using plantation-grown eucalyptus chips. For maize ethanol thus produced we find large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline, and considerable economic and employment benefits at both local and national levels. We also calculate reduced land-use emissions with maize ethanol production compared to the situation without it. Our study thus documents an example of how the complex linkages of bioenergy to food production and security, environment and economic development can be—and indeed appear to be—managed for positive outcomes using current technology.
“What is special about the lab is that while the core is research, Lee is also involved in many other activities that give people in the group access to broader perspectives.”
—Evert Holwerda, Research Scientist