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Dear Visitor

Welcome to the Walker Research Group website. Our research and education activities are focused on industrial biotechnology solutions to agricultural, energy, and environmental challenges. We are passionate research explorers working at the interface between the biological and physical sciences. Challenges to sustainable human development such as sustainable energy and agricultural development are of particular interest, and serving as a "lens" that provides focus for the many biotechnology problems that we seek to address.

Reed Canary

Professor Larry Walker and his collaborator Professor Stephen Kresovich inspect a bag of sorghum in the company of graduates Ben Heavner and Jeremy Luterbacher and undergraduate Hannah Smith.

A Collaborative Research Environment

Our past accomplishments and current activities are driven in part by the strong collaborative relationships that we have established with molecular biologists, microbiologists, plant biologists, systems biologists, applied physicists, chemical engineers and material scientists. It is through these relationships that we are able to develop exciting applied and basic research approaches addressing the most pressing current industry challenges. Access to high quality research facilities is also a key factor in drawing diverse researchers together to tackle challenging industrial biotechnology problems. The Walker Lab's Biomass Conversion Laboratory is designed to carry out enzymatic and microbial processes in a systematic and quantitative manner to advance the development of bioprocesses for industrial biotechnology.

State-of-the-Art Research Facilities

As Director of Cornell's Biofuels Research Laboratory, my graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates and visiting scientists have access to the Biofuels Research Laboratory (BRL). This 11,500 square foot facility was created to support multidisciplinary approaches to developing the New York State bioeconomy with a strong focus on biofuels and bioproducts derived from indigenous biomass. Within the walls of this laboratory are ten different facilities designed to address physical, chemical and biological barriers to liberating sugars from energy crops such as switchgrass, cold tolerant sorghum, and woody biomass, and to biologically convert these sugars into biofuels. Among the resources the BRL has to offer are:

  • An advanced imaging laboratory to carry out single molecule studies of cellulases and other plant cell wall degrading enzymes.
  • Robotics platforms for high-throughput screening of microorganisms and enzyme cocktails.
  • Analytical equipment such as LC-MS, FPLC and FTNIR for measuring and purifying secondary metabolites and assessing chemical compositions of biomass streams.
  • Thermochemical reactors for pretreating biomass material and for microbial conversions.

In addition, there is office space designed to accommodate researchers from different disciplines and to provide an environment for them to share research methods, insights and perspectives.

Pretreatment

Graduate Jeremy Luterbacher demonstrates the thermochemical reactor setup to Professor Larry Walker, graduate Ben Heavner and undergraduate Hannah Smith.

An Integrated Systems Approach

Another fundamental characteristic of the Walker research group is the "systems" perspective that each member brings addressing biotechnology challenges. There are a number of ways that advanced biotechnological, chemical and physical processes can be coupled to form integrated "industrial ecologies." Many of the attributes exhibited by an "industrial ecology" can be found in microbial systems, and the field of "systems biology" has evolved to capture these attributes through in-silica modeling of metabolic and signaling pathways. Some members of the Walker research group are integrating systems biology tools into their research activities; others are performing input/output modeling and life cycle analysis of bio-based industries. The goal is to strengthen our ability to develop sustainable bio-based industries through a systems approach using sound science and engineering.

Outreach and Education

In addition to our commitment to doing excellent research in support of New York State's bioeconomy, members of the Walker Research Group are also very activities in K-12 and STEM education. Dr. Corey Rutzke is leading the Bioenergy and Bioproducts Education Programs . This multi-institution program provides professional development opportunities for teachers (grades 6-16) interested in expanding their basic understanding of biobased energy and biobased products and incorporating these topics in their classroom through hands-on activities. The program operates through nine Training Sites in the Northeast Region: Cornell University and Boyce Thompson Institute in Ithaca, NY; Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County, Millbrook, NY; Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland; Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware; EcoComplex at Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ; Center for Science and the Schools, Penn State University, State College, PA; and West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Professor Larry P. Walker is playing an advisory role for this program.

Thank you for visiting our Group website. We hope that this time was well spent.

Best regards,

Larry Walker, Ph.D.

Professor


News

  • July 2013: Congratulations to Marie Donnelly for successfully defending her thesis for her Ph.D.
  • June 2013: Congratulations to Jeremy Luterbacher for his Assistant Professorship at EPFL
  • Check out our new research articles:

  • Yang, D. Moran-Mirabal, J. M., Parlange, J.Y. 2013. Investigation of the Porous Structure of Cellulosic Substrates Through Confocal Laser Schanning Microscopy. Biotechnology and Bioengineering.
  • Aung, H., Henry, S. A., and Walker, L. P. 2013. Revising the representation of fatty acid, glycerolipid, and glycerophospholipid metabolism in the consensus model of yeast metabolism. Industrial Biotechnology.
  • Heavner, B. D., Smallbone, K., Price, N. D., Walker, L. P. 2013. Version 6 of the consensus yeast metabolic network refines biochemical coverage and improves model performance. Database, Vol. 2013.
  • Luterbacher, J. S., Parlange, J.-Y., Walker, L. P. 2013. A pore-hindered diffusion and reaction model can help explain the importance of pore size distribution in enzymatic hydrolysis of biomass.Biotechnology and Bioengineering.
  • Moran-Mirabal, J. M., Bolewski, J. C. and Walker, L. P. 2013. Thermobifida fusca cellulases exhibit limited surface diffusion on bacterial micro-crystalline Cellulose. Biotechnology and Bioengineering.

IB cover

Our research on flux balance analysis of bacterial hydrogen production was featured on the cover of Industrial Biotechnology.

Cornell Chronicle

The opening of our new facilities was featured in the Cornell Chronicle.

BB cover

Our research on cellulase labeling was featured on the cover of Biotechnology and Bioengineering.