Synthetic biology is the mimicry, utilization and integration of biology with engineering to solve problems. Much of the work in this field centers on genetic engineering of microorganisms to perform specific functions.
Research in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering utilizes synthetic biology to solve problems in sustainable energy, medicine, and materials. We engineer microbes to improve the sustainability of mining rare earth elements, absorb electricity to power metabolism and fix CO2, and accelerate carbon mineralization.
We also explore how human biology can be manipulated for better human health, developing microorganisms to prevent and treat diseases while also advancing scientific understanding of human biological function. We advance the field of smart materials by creating synthetic cells to perform biological functions like enzyme production, and integrate these cells with non-biological elements to enhance their applications.