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Siebel Scholars Foundation
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(650) 299-5260

2010 - Jeffrey Dietrich

According to Jeff Dietrich, the easy part of his doctoral research is engineering microbes to produce small quantities of chemicals that can be used as biofuels.  The challenge, he says, is to get those organisms to yield chemicals in commodity-scale quantities—a criterion for renewable resources to be considered viable alternatives to petroleum-based products. 

Jeff is working to optimize the microbes’ genes to prompt the microorganisms to reproduce more quickly in response to their own chemical output—increasing both the population of microbes and output of biofuel.  Ideally, Jeff’s research will lead to a strain of microbe with the characteristics similar to industrial yeasts that commercial brewers use to produce millions of gallons of beer worldwide.

As he pursues his research goals, Jeff is also working to shape the relatively young discipline of synthetic biology.  For the past four years, he has participated in multi-university research initiatives through the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC).  He is investigating the broader impact of bioengineering, as well.  At UC Berkeley, Jeff taught an undergraduate course that explored the applications and implications of synthetic biology, and he also led a team in writing a business plan that earned a grant to further develop his research findings for possible commercialization.

Jeff has a Bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering from Rice University, where he focused on tissue engineering.  To unwind, he enjoys rock climbing and recently took up scuba diving.