Allison Werner has been a staff molecular biologist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory since 2021, following a three-year postdoctoral appointment at NREL. Her research uses synthetic and systems biology to understand and engineer microbial utilization of underused substrates (e.g., lignin and plastic wastes) towards biological valorization. On the research side at CBI, she has been working with ORNL’s Bob Hettich to determine the proteomic and lipidomic differences between small and large outer membrane vesicles, and to quantify key aromatic catabolic enzymes, during P. putida cultivation in lignin-rich streams.
Werner noted that performing research on-site at ORNL enabled the development of a new method for spatially fractionated multi-omic analysis of P. putida cultivations that would not have been otherwise possible. The outcome of this was a series of protocols that enable analysis of both lipids and proteins from diverse and complex samples.
In her time as an ECD participant, “observing and engaging with the DOE yearly review process was especially educational, and an opportunity I wouldn’t have had until much later in my career without the program.”
“Seeing more clearly the connections between research groups within CBI, between CBI and other DOE Bioenergy Research Centers, and between CBI and our sponsors gave me more big-picture perspective. Seeing Jerry, Brian, Renae and the headquarters team at work introduced me to the strategies they use for operations, strategic guidance, and administration, which is truly no small feat for the highly dispersed and interdisciplinary teams,” Werner said.
“I also learned a tremendous amount from Brian about the skills and practices used to effectively communicate with sponsors, both with written reports and oral presentations.”
Her advice for young scientists interested in bioenergy? “Follow what excites you, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people in the scientific community engaged in that research.”