David Vinyard is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers . He works in the lab of Professor G. Charles Dismukes at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology. David has a B.S. in chemistry and agriculture and an M.S. in chemistry, both from Missouri State University .
Q: Please briefly describe the lab's research and your role in it.
The Dismukes Lab takes a diverse approach toward studying renewable energy. Nature has already solved the challenges involved in converting solar energy to chemical energy through photosynthesis. We aim to understand this process and then to exploit it for our own energy needs. Our lab creates synthetic catalysts that mimic photosynthetic water oxidation and also investigates biofuels from cyanobacteria and algae.
My personal research studies the efficiency of photosynthetic water oxidation inside living cells. This light-driven process occurs in all phototrophs from ancient cyanobacteria to modern higher plants, and only very small changes in the enzyme complex structure have been made over the course of evolution. I aim to identify and quantify these differences by expressing key photosynthetic proteins from diverse organisms in a model green algal system. This allows us to analyze the full spectrum of water oxidizing complexes in a single background.
Q: Where do you see your research fitting in to our energy future?
I am optimistic that energy from renewable sources will be widespread during my lifetime. My contribution will be a more complete understanding of how cyanobacteria, algae, and plants use sunlight to split water. This work will guide both synthetic chemists who create biomimetic catalysts and molecular biologists who genetically engineer algae for biofuel applications.