Benjamin Woolston

Assistant Professor,  Chemical Engineering

Contact

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Office

  • 223 Cullinane
  • 617.373.5560

Lab

  • 006 Mugar

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Research Focus

Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology for sustainable biochemical production and human health.

About

Joined the Chemical Engineering department in January 2020.

Education

  • PhD in Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2017
  • BSc in Chemical Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, 2011

Honors & Awards

  • Jay Bailey Young Investigator Award in Metabolic Engineering within the International Metabolic Engineering Society

Professional Affiliations

  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science

Research Overview

Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology for sustainable biochemical production and human health.

Renewable Biochemical Production with Acetogenic Microbes

Biological production of chemicals and fuels can offer many environmental benefits, from pollution prevention to greenhouse gas capture and sequestration. Acetogenic microbes are a diverse group of ancient anaerobic bacteria that metabolize single carbon substrates such as carbon monoxide, methanol, and formic acid. These substrates have recently emerged as attractive feedstocks for bioprocessing because they do not compete with food supply, and can be produced directly from carbon dioxide using renewable energy. Using tools from metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, and protein biochemistry, we are investigating fundamental questions about the metabolism of acetogens, as well as engineering them to produce valuable biofuels and biochemicals using single carbon substrates.

Interrogating Microbial Metabolism in Human Gut Microbiota with Engineered Microbes

In recent years, the gut microbiota has emerged as an important factor in human health, and interactions between host and microbial cells mediated by small-molecule microbial metabolites play a role in regulating the immune system, gastrointestinal diseases and certain cancers, and communication network between the brain and gut (gut-brain-axis) that affects neurodegeneration and mood. Studying the role of these metabolites in disease is complicated by the lack of robust methods to determine and modulate their local concentration in the gut. We are tackling this problem using synthetic biology methods to engineer commensal bacteria to sense and precisely modulate specific metabolites in vivoApplications of these engineered microbes may give insight into disease pathwaysimpact of specific metabolites on the gut ecosystem, and a better mechanistic understanding of bacteria-host interactions. 

 

Selected Publications

  • D.F. Emerson, B.M. Woolston, N. Liu, M. Donnelly, D.H. Currie, G. Stephanopoulos, Enhancing Hydrogen‐Dependent Growth of and Carbon Dioxide Fixation by Clostridium Ljungdahlii Through Nitrate Supplementation, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 116(2), 2019, 294-306
  • T.B. Roth, B.M. Woolston, G. Stephanopoulos, D.R. Liu, Phage-Assisted Evolution of Bacillus methanolicus Methanol Dehydrogenase 2, ACS Synthetic Biology, 8(4), 2019, 796-806
  • B.M. Woolston, T. Roth, I. Kohale, D.R. Liu, G. Stephanopoulos, Development of a Formaldehyde Biosensor with Application to Synthetic Methylotrophy, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 2018
  • B.M. Woolston, J.R. King, M. Reiter, B. Van Hove, G. Stephanopoulos, Improving Formaldehyde Consumption Drives Methanol Assimilation in Engineered E. Coli, Nature Communications, 9(1), 2018, 2387
  • B.M. Woolston, D.F. Emerson, D.H. Currie, G. Stephanopoulos, Rediverting Carbon Flux in Clostridium Ljungdahlii Using CRISPR Interference (CRISPRi), Metabolic Engineering, 48, 2018, 243-253

Faculty

Jan 19, 2021

Woolston Received the Jay Bailey Young Investigator Award in Metabolic Engineering

ChE Assistant Professor Benjamin Woolston is the 2020 recipient of the Jay Bailey Young Investigator Award in Metabolic Engineering within the International Metabolic Engineering Society (IMES).

Students

Apr 10, 2020

Hoyt Awarded Ford Foundation Fellowship

ChE PhD student Katie Hoyt, PhD’24, won the prestigious national Ford Foundation Fellowship to support her doctoral research.

Faculty

Jan 03, 2020

New Faculty Spotlight: Benjamin Woolston

Benjamin Woolston joins the Chemical Engineering department in January 2020 as an Assistant Professor.

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