UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLOITING COMPLEX BIOSYSTEMS FROM MICROBES TO MATERIALS


DIVISION OF MICROBIAL GENOMICS AND PROTEOMICS

Unicellular organisms account for a substantial fraction of global primary productivity. They represent the most evolutionarily and metabolically diverse organisms with capacity to thrive in highly specialized environmental niches, to use a variety of inert elements and sources of energy, and to exploit low concentrations of nutrients. Microbes have beneficial, sometimes essential, interactions with complex multi-cellular organisms; in the soil, they contribute to the global N and C cycles.

In this Division, we apply emerging technologies to define and probe the genomes, proteomes and metabolism of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes. On the one hand, we emphasize genome interpretation, especially in the context of the environment and in relation to other species; on the other hand, we offer a substantial component of discovery of new reactions in uncharted metabolic pathways.

DIVISION OF SYSTEMS BIOLOGY AND DESIGN

Biological systems are distinguished by their high level of organization. Their composition from multiple interacting components allows them to exhibit many kinds of complex behaviors, enabling chemical transformations and synthetic processes that are often tightly regulated and/or spatially controlled for optimal performance. We currently possess much knowledge about the operation and engineering of individual biological components, while higher levels of organization represent new frontiers.
In this Division, we apply emerging technologies to dissect and re-engineer complex biochemical processes and structures. These efforts aim to create advanced chemicals and biologically-based materials in support of DOE interests in energy, green chemistry, and bioprocessing. The Division supports a group of interrelated projects emphasizing the engineering of organized biochemical systems.

CORE AND INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES

The research of the Institute is enabled by seven Core Technology Centers, directed by Institute PIs and operated by full-time professional scientists. These centers develop and maintain tools for production, structural determination, characterization, and computational analysis of molecular systems. The professional staffs not only operate and maintain the complex equipment, but also instruct students and postdoctoral fellows in the up-to-date methods. Working with PIs, the staffs constantly upgrade the methodologies in their areas of specialization.
In their UCLA teaching duties, Institute PIs offer several courses in the advanced technologies practiced in the Core Technology Centers. Participation in these courses allows students and postdoctoral fellows to move rapidly into applications of the technologies to their research problems.

CENTER FOR GLOBAL MENTORING (CGM)

This center, founded by Omar Yaghi and David Eisenberg, aims to introduce the US- and Western Europe-based tradition of graduate student mentoring to countries with developing scientific infrastructure. The CGM has built a partnership with the University of Vietnam (VNU), which presently consists of mentoring four early-career VNU graduate students at UCLA after which they return to VNU. Although sponsored by the UCLA-DOE Institute, no Institute funds, either direct or indirect, are used to support CGM.