A Look Into Claire Anderson's Research with Fungi
Claire Anderson is a NSF (National Science Foundation Fellow) and Ph.D. graduate student in Bioproducts and Biosystems Science, Engineering and Management. She is currently researching the biochemical mechanisms of wood decaying fungi and its applications to biotechnology and the carbon cycle.
Fungi are among the few organisms on Earth that can sustainably make energy from plant lignocellulose, such as wood. By understanding the biochemical mechanisms of wood-decay fungi, we may be able to harness these pathways and enzymes to more efficiently convert lignocellulosic feedstocks into platform chemicals. The potential implications of fungi on the carbon cycle and its potential applications in biotechnology are precisely why Claire studies the biochemical mechanisms of wood decay fungi.
Specifically, she is focusing on how substrate chemistry enables and regulates the carbohydrate-selective mechanism of brown rot fungi, which is an appealing mechanism for biotechnology applications as it circumvents the recalcitrant lignin in the wood and releases the more desirable carbohydrates. She is hoping to identify specific substrate components that act as "cues" to kick start the brown rot mechanism. Identifying the "cues" that initiate brown rot decay presents a possible way to utilize and control brown rot decay in engineered and industrial processes. Furthermore, as scientists try to understand how carbon moves about our planet with greater clarity and precision, understanding the many different mechanisms of wood decay will provide insight into what happens to wood, one of Earth’s largest terrestrial pools of carbon.