Associate Professor, Systems Biology and Bioenergy
Dr. Joshua Yuan joined the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Texas A&M University as an Assistant Professor, located at College Station effective July 2008. His major responsibilities are developing a research program in bioinformatics and systems biology. He will also be developing graduate and undergraduate teaching programs consisting of courses in bioenergy, systems biology, and bioinformatics. Dr Yuan reveived his Ph.D. in Plants, Insects, and Soils with Focus on Functional Genomics (Major) and Statistics (Minor) from the University of Tennessee (2007), where he focused on plant indirect defense under the supervision of Dr. Feng Chen. He Also holds an M.S. in Plant Sciences from the University of Arizona (2001) and a B.S. in Biology (Major) and International Economics (Minor) from Fudan University (1997). Most recently, Dr. Yuan was a Genomics Scientist in the Department of Plant Sciences, and Director of UTIA Genomics Hub, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
We aim to use integrated and multidisciplinary approaches to address important issues in bioenergy and plant biology. We are employing the latest systems and computational biology platforms to carry out four aspects of research. First, we are using the shot-gun proteomics, molecular network, and other high throughput methods to identify key genes controlling plant energy balance and defense. Several new groups of genes have been identified and are being studied. The research is a continuation from our traditional plant biology research. Second, we integrate the latest metagenomics and metaproteomics approaches to explore the molecular and systems level mechanisms for biomass degradation in Natural Biomass Utilization Systems (NBUS) like cattle rumen, termite gut, white rot fungi, and other insect guts. The study has led to insights about the biomass deconstruction and potential knowhow for reverse design of new biorefinery functions. The topic was spinned off from our plant insect interaction work and got expanded to a much broader perspective. Third, we are employing the state-of-the-art HDX mass spectrometry platform to explore enzyme dynamics toward understanding the dynamics-function relationship and developing new solutions for rational design of biocatalysts. The research serves as a perfect complements to the enzyme discovery for an integrated solution for biomass conversion. Fourth, we are carrying out metabolic engineering in both algal and higher plant species for improving terpenoid yield toward fuels, chemicals, and therapeutics applications. The complementary algal cultivation technologies and such were developed. The research direction was derived from our study of terpenoid function in plant defense. Overall, the four directions work together to address the key challenges in second and third generation biofuels as well as crop growth and safety. For more information, please visit our lab at http://people.tamu.edu/~syuan