Seawalls, parasites and perceptions of nature: Graduate awards empower innovative environmental research

Tuesday, Jul 9, 2019
by Morgan Kelly, for Princeton Environmental Institute

The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) has selected six Princeton University graduate students, including Makoto Lalwani from chemical and biological engineering, for research awards supporting projects related to climate science, energy solutions, environmental policy and other environmental topics.

Hannah Bradley, Makoto Lalwani, Katja Luxem, Ian Miller, and Liana Wait were named as the 2019 recipients of the Walbridge Fund Graduate Award for Environmental Research, which provides up to $10,000 for fieldwork, travel, conference participation, and other research costs. DJ Rasmussen received the Karl F. Schlaepfer ’49 and Gloria G. Schlaepfer Fund, which is awarded periodically to support graduate research and travel related to environmental studies.

Lalwani will engineer microbes controlled by light that could lead to the cleaner and more sustainable production of chemicals without the traditional reliance on fossil fuels. The manufacture of fuels, plastics, dyes, and other common chemicals often relies on environmentally unfriendly methods such as petrochemical processing. Lalwani aims to manipulate various vital functions of microbes using different colors of light, which should enable robust and customizable control of engineered microbial communities for making biofuels, bioplastics and pharmaceuticals.

Project Title: “Dynamic Control of Microbial Consortia for Sustainable Chemical Production”

Adviser: José Avalos, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

This article is adapted from the original, which includes descriptions of all six winning projects.