Dr. Lidstrom will expand an existing University of Washington program to integrate life sciences into the engineering curriculum. The goals of her initiative are to excite engineering undergraduates about life sciences, to increase the numbers of undergraduate engineers moving into careers at the life sciences/engineering boundary, and to create a model that can be implemented at other institutions. This effort will have three components. First, life sciences-oriented pathways will be developed within each engineering major to attract a diverse group of engineering students into a life sciences-oriented engineering curriculum. Second, curricular enhancements will be made, including expansion of a new junior-level hands-on class, Biological Frameworks for Engineers, and development of a computer-based, self-paced tool for teaching biological fundamentals from an engineering perspective. Hands-on learning will be the basis of the educational design, with current research problems as the focal points. Third, a program will be created for undergraduate research projects focused at the life sciences/engineering boundary to facilitate undergraduate research in this area and provide a supportive environment for students carrying out this research. Assessment will be built into the entire initiative as an iterative feedback and refinement loop to enhance each element of the program.
The target audience is engineering undergraduates who are motivated to learn life sciences and carry out research at the life sciences/engineering boundary. The tools and curricula that are developed will be readily exportable; therefore, this initiative has the potential for major national impact. The outcomes will be a set of inquiry-based educational tools for teaching life sciences to engineers, including self-paced, classroom, and laboratory tools; a framework of curricular plans for guiding students into life sciences-oriented engineering pathways; and a cadre of students in all engineering majors with interest and expertise in life sciences motivated to pursue further studies at this boundary.
Dr. Lidstrom's research group has focused on understanding and manipulating the metabolism of bacteria that grow on one-carbon compounds (methylotrophs). Her research on methylotrophy has focused on understanding these bacteria, their environmental niche, and the cellular-level integration of their metabolism. This work has included studies of the environmental significance of methylotrophic bacteria, elucidation of novel cofactors and enzymes, evolution of novel metabolic pathways, and metabolic modeling for metabolic engineering. Approaches have involved field studies of biogeochemical cycling, molecular analysis of environmental populations, the biochemistry of key enzymes, development and application of genetic techniques, and, more recently, development and application of genomic approaches.
Dr. Lidstrom’s major research accomplishments include the following: Development of sophisticated genetic techniques for methylotrophic bacteria and their application to the identification and functional characterization of 75 genes involved in growth on C1 compounds; discovery of a novel ditryptophan cofactor for oxidizing methylated amines; discovery of a metabolic pathway for oxidizing formaldehyde that involves genes, enzymes, and cofactors formerly thought to be found only in the very distantly related archaea; sequence and annotation of the first methylotrophic genome; development of the first expression array for a methylotroph (in progress); development of a metabolic model for methylotrophy and its application to understanding methylotrophic physiology at the cell systems level; discovery that a variety of invertebrates live on methane gas by harboring methane-utilizing bacteria in their gill tissues; and discovery that environmental populations of methane-utilizing bacteria are naturally optimized for biodegrading toxic compounds.
Last updated October 2002