Prof. Brian Pfleger
My research interests lie in developing microorganisms capable of producing small molecules of significant social, economic, and scientific value from renewable resources. In the past decades, the field of biotechnology has blossomed to allow the production of valuable proteins including restriction enzymes, polymerases, blood factors, antibodies, and other therapeutic enzymes at industrial scale and cost. Recent work has shifted towards the production of small therapeutic molecules that are difficult to synthesize de novo due to their complexity. The high value ($ per molecule) of these chemicals allows for an economically viable process to be designed using today's technologies. In the coming decades, our economy will need to be based on renewable resources in order to sustain itself. As such, the chemical industry will need to discover renewable sources for its specialty chemicals and materials that are currently derived from fossil fuels. To reach such ends, my research group will develop new tools for engineering biological systems and explore the world of protein engineering in order to develop new biological catalysts for essential chemical reactions. It is my goal to develop a leading laboratory in the field of Synthetic Biology in order to harness the growing database of biological parts for use in developing novel technologies for chemical synthesis.
Our laboratory studies microbial biochemistry with an emphasis on understanding the molecular mechanisms that give rise to phenotypes in bacteria. Although our current understanding of the complexity of a bacterium is still emerging, it is becoming clear that the genetic and biochemical mechanisms that govern cellular homeostasis are far more sophisticated than we had imagined. Our approach to the study of bacteria is driven by the development of new capabilities for studying single cells or small groups of cells and the application of these techniques to dissect the molecular choreography within the cell. This research is interdisciplinary and is based on a fusion of techniques from biology, physics, engineering, and chemistry.
Systems biology utilizes both experimental and computational approaches to study biological networks at a systems or whole network level, in order to understand and predict cellular behavior. Computational efforts need to be able to account qualitatively and quantitatively for a wide range of different data types relevant to biological systems. Most of my research group's interests involve the study of metabolism and regulation through the generation and subsequent analysis of metabolic models and reconciliation with experimental data. Overall, my group uses computational models and develops methods to study biological systems, engineer cells, and expand our knowledge of the underlying mechanisms behind observed cellular behavior.
The Man. Scott is a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. Scott has recently discovered many strains of bacteria that produce bleach. Everyday, he comes into the lab to find his samples at peak production. Transcription is not understood yet, but the bleach production is related to a time variable as it happens overnight... every night. [back]
Nate is a junior majoring in Biomedical Engineering. He eats raw greenbeans. [back]
Xintong is a senior majoring in Biochemistry. [back]
Nate is a junior majoring in Chemical and Biological Engineering. [back]
Sarah is a sophomore majoring in Biomedical Engineering and is focusing on tissue engineering. She is also minoring in Ceramic Sculpture and Japanese. [back]
Chris is a junior majoring in Chemical and Biological Engineering. He has the ability to summon Spencer on command by just messing up in lab. This comes in handy when our iGEM team has a question to ask a professional.
Ting is a senior majoring in Biochemistry. She likes children too.Her initials (Z.T.) mean 'Pig's Head' in Chinese.
Viraj is a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering. [back]
Sean McMaster is a senior studying Biochemistry and Mathematics. Sean has been involved in biochemistry research since his freshman year. Under the direction of Dr. Doug Weibel in the Department of Biochemistry, Sean has explored correlations in bacterial genetic ancestry through bacteria shape and researched the minimal nutrients required for bacterial swarming motility. He has been an active member on UW-Madison’s iGEM Team since its inception in 2007. Sean has also actively pursued research opportunities outside UW-Madison. In the summer of 2008, he performed bioinformatic analysis with Protein Binding Microarrays to identify binding affinities of all yeast transcription factors at Harvard Medical School in the Lab of Dr. Martha Bulyk. This past summer, Sean investigated the effects of Epigallocatechin Gallate on Toll-Like Receptor expression in pursuit of an effective HIV microbicide at the Baylor College of Medicine under the guidance of Dr. Christina Nance. [back]