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2021 Translational Plant Sciences Symposium to be held virtually

2021 Translational Plant Sciences Symposium

From: Fralin Life Sciences Institute

Date: Friday, February 26, 2021    
Time: 8:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.

The 2021 Translational Plant Sciences Symposium will be held Friday, February 26th, from 8:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. The event will be 100% virtual. The symposium will be open to Translational Plant Sciences and non-Translational Plant Sciences students and faculty, with guests from regional universities and current and prospective Translational Plant Sciences applicants.

There will be three invited speakers (1 hour talk for each), five student short talks (10 min talk, 2 min questions), and a one-hour facilitated workshop panel on coping with a pandemic lifestyle and diversity and inclusion in our research. All attendees are expected to participate with thoughts, ideas, experiences, comments.

Coffee breaks and poster sessions will be held in the Wonder app to promote impromptu interactions and more real-life socialization time.


Sustainable food and bioenergy production requires efforts at all levels. As plant biologists, we are familiar with how plants respond to stresses or how to introduce new desirable traits, but we do not know much about what has to happen next to sustainably produce the final product.

The Center for Advanced Bioenergy & Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) is a new DOE-funded Bioenergy Center that integrates all steps for developing bioenergy grasses: from engineering high-oil grasses and yeasts that can use grass oil to make commercially valuable products, to scaling up for commercial use and evaluating sustainability aspects. CABBI has three main themes to help them achieve their goals: (i) feedstock development (designing and engineering grasses); (ii) conversion (yeast engineering and scaling up); and (iii) sustainability (techno-economic and life cycle analyses). CABBI uses a combination of experimental and modeling approaches in all themes in their highly translational basic and applied research and collaborates with many industry partners. 

Our invited speakers, John Shanklin, Huimin Zhao, and Jeremy Guest, who represent the three different themes, will share not only their research experiences, but also experiences with their diversity and inclusion programs.

Speaker Information: 

John Shanklin

  • Senior Biochemist, Chair of the Biology Department, and Group Leader for Plant Science at the Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation 

Shanklin obtained his B.S. at the University of Lancaster (UK) and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. After completing his postdoctoral work with Prof. Chris Somerville at the DOE Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University at 1992, he established his own research program in plant biochemistry, specifically plant lipids at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Lipids are high-energy molecules suitable to be used as a renewable source of biofuel. He currently investigates ways to convert sucrose in leaves and stems of bioenergy grasses into oil that could be used as a source of jet fuel or feedstocks for the production of valuable oil-based chemicals. Dr. Shanklin received several prestigious awards, including a Presidential Early Career Award and the Terry Galliard Medal for Plant Lipid Biochemistry. He is also an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Huimin Zhao

  • Steven L. Miller Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Professor of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
  • Director, NSF AI Research Institute for Molecule Synthesis
    Conversion Group Leader, Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation

Zhao received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992. After completing his Ph.D. in Chemistry in the laboratory of the Nobel Laureate Dr. Frances Arnold at the California Institute of Technology in 1998, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company. In 2000, he joined University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a pioneer in developing fully automated systems for engineering proteins, pathways, and genomes for biomedical and biotechnological applications using synthetic biology and machine learning in combination with robotics and automation tools. Zhao is a recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Marvin Johnson Award in Microbial and Biochemical Technology from the American Chemical Society and the Elmer Gaden Award from John Wiley & Sons and the American Chemical Society Division of Biochemical Technology.

Jeremy Guest

  • Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
  • Acting Associate Director for Research, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment
  • Sustainable Design Leader, Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation

Guest received his B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from Bucknell University and Virginia Tech, respectively, and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan. In 2011, he joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois as an Assistant Professor. His research focus is on developing sustainable infrastructures for water sanitation in developed and underdeveloped communities as well as sustainable agricultural biofuel production using modeling and technologies. Guest has received the James J. Morgan Environmental Science & Technology Early Career Award and the NSF CAREER Award. He is also well known for his work in promoting inclusion and diversity.


8:45 - 9:00 a.m.: Welcome and opening

9:00 - 10:00 a.m.: Speaker #1: John Shanklin 

10:00 - 10:15 a.m.: Coffee break

10:15 - 11:15 a.m.: Student short talks

11:15 - 11:30 a.m.: Coffee break

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Speaker #2: Huimin Zhao 

12:30 - 1:30 p.m.: Lunch

1:30 - 2:30 p.m.: Workshop

2:30 - 2:45 p.m.: Coffee break

2:45 - 3:45 p.m.: Speaker #3: Jeremy Guest 

3:45 - 4:00 p.m.: Coffee break

4:00 - 6:00 p.m.: Poster session

6:00 - 6:15 p.m.: Awards and concluding remarks