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Learning at the Boundary of Life Sciences and Engineering

Research Summary

Mary Lidstrom'’s research group focuses on understanding and manipulating the metabolism of bacteria that grow on one-carbon compounds (methylotrophs). She created a program to integrate inquiry-based life sciences into the engineering curriculum, which included expanding the class Biological Frameworks for Engineers and recruiting students for research at the life sciences/engineering boundary.

Dr. Lidstrom developed a program to encourage engineers to pursue careers at the life sciences/engineering boundary. Her team expanded a junior-level hands-on class, Biological Frameworks for Engineers, and developed a computer-based, self-paced tool for teaching biological fundamentals from an engineering perspective, which won a national award for interactive educational software. Hands-on learning was the basis of the educational design, with current research problems as the focal points. Substantial assessment was carried out as an iterative feedback and refinement loop to enhance each element of the program. The target audience was engineering undergraduates who are motivated to learn life sciences and carry out research at the life sciences/engineering boundary. The tools and curricula that were developed were disseminated broadly, and the courses that were developed have been taken over by other faculty and are still an important part of the engineering curriculum.

Research in the Lidstrom Lab

Research in the Lidstrom laboratory is focused on molecular and metabolic manipulations of bacteria that grow on one-carbon compounds, the methylotrophs. Her group has applied combined genomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics approaches to understanding metabolic network dynamics in methylotrophic bacteria, and has applied these insights to understanding function and diversity in environmental communities of these bacteria. Her work at the engineering/biology/ecology boundary has broad applications from bioremediation to biofuels to greenhouse gas emissions.

Last updated May 2014

Scientist Profile

HHMI Professor
University of Washington
Chemical Biology, Microbiology