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June 2017, Volume 12

Announcements

Paul Jowlabar, professor in the Chemical Engineering Department, retired in June. Paul has lectured for the Unit Ops Lab, CHE113S, Separation Processes CHE311S, Process Design CHE324F, and Eng. Sci. Lab CHE398F. There was a special BioZone Tea Time to honour his time here and to thank him for all of his help! Thank you, Paul and best of luck!

News & Events

Industrial Biocatalysis Network (IBN): Technoeconomic Assessment Workshop
This year’s IBN Annual General Meeting kicked off with a two-day Technoeconomic Assessment (TEA) workshop, as part of the NSERC Strategic Network Enhancement Initiative. The workshop was led by Allison Simmonds, from Savant Technical Consulting, who systematically walked us through a series of tools and analyses to take our research and ideas from the lab, and determine if they can be economically viable. Two guest speakers, Dr. Chris Phillips from BP and Mr. Albert Behr from Behr and Associates, Inc., offered their valuable perspective and advice to apply TEA for directed process development and learn tricks of the trade for technology commercialization. From learning new functions in Microsoft Excel, to learning about resource allocation and go-to-market strategies, it was an enriching two-day experience with memorable discussions!
IBN: Annual General Meeting
At this year’s AGM, U of T brought together professors, graduate students and researchers as well as Industry partners from Universities and companies across Canada and abroad. The main themes presented at the conference were: complex carbohydrates, polymer precursors, fungal metabolites, and emerging technologies. Students and researchers shared their new and exciting research projects on these topics with 38 abstracts submitted in total for the poster session and oral presentations.
Guest speakers Dr. Isabelle Benoit Gelber (Concordia University), Dr. Cathy Chin (U of T), Dr. Karen Budwill (Innotech Alberta), and Dr. Camilla NesbØ (University of Alberta) provided excellent insights into their research in carbohydrate biocatalysis, heterogeneous catalysis, microbial conversion and anaerobic microorganisms. This was all complimented by presentations given by PIs as well as talks given by industry representatives highlighting current industrial challenges and opportunities in biocatalysis. Overall, the meeting lead to highly interesting discussions and a strengthening of connections between members of the network. 
IBN: Technology Tours
Students and researchers in the IBN had the opportunity to learn how biochemical processes are implemented in industrial settings. Tour sites included DuPont, Rorschach Brewery, Grober Nutrition and Patheon (imaged below). Many thanks to our hosts and all that attended for making this tour so successful!
NSERC Industrial Biocatalysis Network
The Industrial Biocatalysis Network (IBN) is a 5-year, $5 million project involving nine researchers from U of T, Concordia University and the University of British Columbia, as well as six industrial partner from manufacturing sectors as diverse as animal feed, forestry, oil and gas, and commodity chemicals.
The IBN includes BioZone Professors Elizabeth Edwards, Emma Master, Radhakrishnan Mahadevan, Alexei Savchenko and Alexander Yakunin, who will bring their bioengineering expertise to bear of the task of discovering new enzymes for use in industrial processes. Their goal is to develop bio-based processes that will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and decrease our environmental footprint.
Festa Junina and Farewell Party for visiting professor Savia Gavazza
On June 26th, the BioZone Council hosted a Festa Junina and Farewell Party for visiting professor Savia Gavazza and her family.
Festa Junina is a traditional Brazilian festival that celebrates the harvest season. We tried Brazilian dishes, wore festive costumes, played traditional games, and danced to Brazilian music! Thank you to everyone that came to celebrate!

Awards & Grants

Alison McGuigan is the 2017 Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering Lectureship Award winner.

The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering Lectureship Award is awarded to a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant who has made an outstanding contribution to chemical engineering, demonstrating exceptional promise, while working in Canada. Eligible candidates must have held their first professional appointment as an independent researcher in academia, government, or industry for seven years or less at the time of nomination submission.
Krishna Mahadevan wins 2017 Biochemical Engineering Journal Young Investigator Award.

The Editors of the Biochemical Engineering Journal, in cooperation with Engineering Conferences International and Biochemical and Molecular Engineering XX, are very pleased to announce the selection of Professor Krishna Mahadevan as the recipient of the 2017 Biochemical Engineering Journal Young Investigator Award. 

BioZone Insider 

Student Spotlight: Patrick Diep
The week’s Student Spotlight is on Patrick Diep, a new MASc student in the Yakunin lab. He is currently working as a Research Assistant over the summer. See abstract below for details on Patrick’s proposed research project.
 
Though Patrick officially starts his MASc degree in September 2017, he has already acquired an established knowledge base in synthetic biology and bioengineering. His research relates to secondary metal extraction from mining wastewaters using genetically modified bacteria. Patrick’s interest in the environment and water protection stems from his undergraduate co-op experience at Environment Canada, where he analyzed statistical data pertaining to Canada’s rivers. As a lead of the 2016 Waterloo iGEM Lab & Design team, he helped create and test a prototype of a genetic switch capable of turning on in the presence of yeast prions. Through this experience, he gained valuable insight into the field of synthetic biology while applying knowledge obtained from his biochemistry undergraduate degree.
 
As an interesting and useful fact, Patrick is highly qualified in First Aid—he has completed training for Advanced Medical First Aid from St. John Ambulance — an 80-hour certification program covering a plethora of topics suitable for a first responder. Patrick was also part of the Campus Response Team at uWaterloo and has applied experience in handling medical emergencies and physical trauma. Be sure to look for Patrick if you or anyone you know require first aid assistance while in the building!
 
In his free time, Patrick enjoys writing, reading and art. He is a new senior-editor for The Cannon, one of Skule’s newspapers, and he hopes to share his experience as an engineering graduate student to further diversify his writing abilities. One of Patrick’s favourite reads is a collection of short stories named Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, which he credits as inspiration for his involvement as a first responder. Patrick also has a keen interest in photography and acrylic painting, which he finds apt as a therapeutic weekend activity.
 
Abstract
The challenge of supplying future mineral demands is alarmingly complex. Earth’s high-grade primary metal reserves are depleting, and this calls for new alternative mining strategies to complement – and eventually replace – traditional pyro/hydrometallurgy techniques. Biomining is a technique which applies different microbes to mineral ores for the purpose of extracting target metals so they can be processed downstream. In many cases, this is more economically viable and environmentally friendly than other approaches, yet it is currently just used for the extraction of copper and gold from iron-sulfide ores. Recent studies demonstrate Acidithiobacillus species releasing nickel from recalcitrant laterite ores, which hints at opportunities to genetically modify these microbes to have enhanced nickel extraction properties. This prospect is highly attractive due to the extractable high nickel concentrations found in mining effluent and acid mine drainage near Sudbury, Ontario (and surely other parts of the world). My two-stage project takes on a synthetic biology approach. I will first characterize a set of nickel-binding proteins from various soil and pathogenic bacteria, then assemble new genetic systems expressing select proteins from this set that allows for uptake and storage of nickel ions inside the host cell for further downstream processing. Not only can this be economically appealing, but it serves the greater purpose of cleaning wastewater for improved environmental and human health.
IT Safety with Dean
With all the recent news in the media lately about viruses that are encrypting user’s data it should come as no surprise that a good antivirus program, a computer that is kept up to date with patches, and a backup strategy help to mitigate the risks. If your computer was purchased with UofT monies then you are eligible to install the virus protection from https://microsoft.utoronto.ca
Windows 8/10 have an antivirus program built in called Windows Defender, but you still need to make sure it is active and staying current. Operating system patches should be installed routinely.  To help avoid infection be careful of the links you click from email messages, most times you can mouse over the link to see the name of the website the link is going, and if it does not look right then delete the email. Also, never give your usernames and passwords to anyone.
Job Hunting Tips
Whether you’re a student who’s graduating soon or looking for an internship, or even a current employee looking for a different job, the process of looking for new work may seem daunting. Here’s a few tips to help you on your journey:
1. Get a LinkedIn account (and update it!)
Seeing as how most recruiters use LinkedIn as their go-to tool, consider jumping on the (professional) social media bandwagon. And don’t forget to update it on a semi-regular basis to make sure you are still relevant to potential openings.
2. Go beyond the application
While submitting an application to a posting online is one method to enter “the system” of a potential employer, many applications are often automatically screened before they are even looked at. By personally reaching out to a few people who work for your desired employer, you may be able to make yourself stand out from the competition. You’d be surprised what a “cold-call” email can do.
 3. Get an internship
Okay, so this applies more to students, looking for a more permanent job when they graduate, but it’s a great tip nonetheless. Many employers are very cautious about who they hire, and rightfully so. However, students are cheap, and so many employers often dish out several internships and co-op positions every year. Being one of those students is a great opportunity to get your foot in the door so that they put a face to a name on a resume years down the line.

Recent Publications

Pandit, A. V., Srinivasan, S. & Mahadevan, R. Redesigning metabolism based on orthogonality principles. Nat. Commun. 8, doi:10.1038/ncomms15188 (2017).

Toroghi, M. K., Cluett, W. R. & Mahadevan, R. Multiscale metabolic modeling approach for predicting blood alcohol concentration. IEEE Life Sciences Letters 2, 59-62, (2016).


Littunen, K., Mai-Gisondi, G., Seppälä, J. & Master, E. R. Enzymatically Debranched Xylans in Graft Copolymerization. Biomacromolecules 18, 1634-1641, (2017).

Yan, R., Vuong, T. V., Wang, W. & Master, E. R. Action of a GH115 α-glucuronidase from Amphibacillus xylanus at alkaline condition promotes release of 4-O-methylglucopyranosyluronic acid from glucuronoxylan and arabinoglucuronoxylan. Enzyme Microb. Technol. 104, 22-28, (2017).

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