Early Career Development Program

The Center for Bioenergy Innovation is helping to grow the next generation of bioenergy leaders through its unique Early Career Development Program. Open to funded early career scientists from current CBI partnering institutions, the program provides an opportunity for participants to conduct groundbreaking research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory while also learning about the management of a large collaborative science center. Appointees split their time between bioenergy research with an ORNL mentor and working with the CBI leadership team on administrative activities such as planning for the annual partner meeting and the Department of Energy’s annual review. Appointments last at least three months and are funded by the center. CBI’s Research Council selects early career appointees through an application process. 

Contact: Dr. Brian Davison at 865-574-0955 or davisonbh@ornl.gov for more information.

Current Mentees

Patrick Suthers

Patrick is a research at Penn State University. He will join CBI Headquarters to help with our Annual Science Meeting in Asheville, North Carolina. He will also have a collaborative project with John Field at ORNL on incorporating genome-scale metabolic models into techno-economic assessments. In his free time, for fun, he enjoys taking walks and hiking.

Mengjun Shu

Mengjun is a postdoc at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She will join CBI Headquarters in August 2024, and is eager to assist with our Annual Review and advance her research within the CBI framework. Mengjun’s research dives into the sex-determination mechanisms of Populus trichocarpa, employing GWAS and haplotype long sequence analysis. Outside the realm of research, she enjoys reading, playing video games, and playing the piano, which harmoniously balances her scientific pursuits.

Former Mentees

Jaime Barros

Jaime Barros is a postdoctoral research associate at The University of North Texas BioDiscovery Institute. His research interests focus on the biology of wood formation in higher plants, including reactions that lead to lignin synthesis.

Melissa Cregger

Melissa Cregger is a research scientist in the Biosciences Division at ORNL, specializing in plant-microbe interactions. She received a DOE Early Career Award to conduct research for the BER Genomic Sciences program.

David Kainer

David Kainer is a staff computational systems biologist at ORNL, specializing in the integration of diverse biological datasets with machine learning approaches for functional gene exploration and genomic prediction.

Davinia Salvachua

Davinia Salvachua has been a staff microbiologist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory since July 2014. Her research is focused on understanding biological lignin depolymerization and catabolism by fungi and bacteria.

Breeanna Urbanowicz

Breeanna Urbanowicz is an assistant professor and lead of the Plant Biopolymers Group at the University of Georgia. She is faculty of UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and its New Materials Institute.

Liz Ware

Liz Ware has been a staff research chemist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory since 2016. Her research is focused on understanding lignocellulosic biomass cell wall composition and thermochemical conversion of biomass.

Allison Werner

Allison Werner is a staff molecular biologist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Her research uses synthetic and systems biology to understand and engineer microbial utilization of underused substrates towards biological valorization.

Yaping Xu

Yaping Xu is a postdoc at the University of Tennessee. He will be working with CBI management including planning of the CBI Annual Science Meeting and composed monthly research highlights. He has continued his research in automation of sustainability trait modeling for switchgrass with UAV-based imagery.

Seunghyun Ryu

Seunghyun Ryu is a staff at the University of Tennessee. She will be working with CBI management to including planning of the CBI Annual Review Meeting and composing research highlights. She wants to further develop her project management skills and will be involved in the operation of a large multi-institutional research project.

Ajaya Kumar Biswal

Ajaya Kumar Biswal is an associate research scientist at the University of Georgia’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. His research with CBI sits in the areas of cell wall polysaccharides, consolidated bioprocessing, plant-microbe interactions and computational biology.

Paul Abraham

Paul Abraham is a bioanalytical chemist in the Bioimaging and Analytics section at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His experience in biological mass spectrometry informs a greater systems-level understanding of plants, microbes and microbial communities, enabling the design and engineering of custom organisms for bioenergy production.