Saint Paul, MN 55108
The Niehaus lab uses cheminformatics, cross-kingdom comparative genomics, and other approaches to identify promiscuous enzyme activities and spontaneous chemical reactions that result in metabolite damage and uncover dedicated enzymes that repair or preempt the damage. We characterize these systems in plant and microbial systems using metabolomics, genetic, and biochemical techniques.
Our lab studies metabolism, which is foundational to all of life and underpins key areas of biology including synthetic biology, human health, stress tolerance, and aging. There are numerous genes of unknown function that are predicted to play some kind of role in metabolism. Students will learn to use a variety of bioinformatic and comparative genomics tools to predict the metabolic function of unknown genes. These predictions will be tested using biochemical and genetic techniques such as phenotypic analysis of knockouts in model plant and/or microbial organisms, assaying recombinant enzymes, metabolomics, etc. In addition to cutting-edge science, students will develop communication and collaboration skills that will prepare them for exciting careers in industry or academia.