Project Info

Decoupling Photosynthesis from Food

Nanette Boyle

Project Goals and Description:

With decreasing availability of arable land, alternative methods of food production are needed in inhospitable environments or for long term space exploration. One method that has been proposed for this is indoor vertical farming but the electrical input to provide adequate light. An alternative approach would be to provide food for the plant that doesn't require light to use (ie organic carbon). Acetate can be made easily by combining CO2 and CH4 using a novel photochemical approach. This acetate can then be fed to crops to minimize light input for plants while still enabling growth. This project will focus on learning more about growth on acetate and how to enable crop plants to utilize acetate more efficiently.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Develop carbon sequestration methods.

Primary Contacts:

Nanette Boyle

Student Preparation


The student should have training in biology, biochemistry and python. This project requires students to be able to perform both experiments and computational algorithms.




The student will learn aseptic technique, cell culture, isotope assisted metabolic flux analysis, analytical chemistry and computational approaches to calculate metabolic fluxes. Effective scientific communication will also be taught.


The student will be working alongside a PhD student in the lab and will be required to attend the Boyle group lab meetings 1 per month. At these meetings, they will present their work to date, discuss any challenges/troubleshooting and future plans. Once per semester, the student will present a formal presentation about the project they are working on.


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