Postdoctoral Research Assistant
My name is Nick Bonawitz, and I have been a postdoc in Clint Chapple's lab since the fall of 2007. I grew up in the small town of Millersburg, Pennsylvania, leaving home in 1996 to pursue a B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Rochester in upstate New York. I received my Ph.D. in 2007 from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where my work focused on understanding the role of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species in aging using the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
In shifting my research focus to plants and moving to Dr. Chapple's lab, where we mainly utilize the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, I have had the opportunity to significantly expand my knowledge base and my repertoire of experimental techniques. I am currently working on several diverse, but interconnected projects aimed at understanding and ultimately manipulating the plant phenylpropanoid pathway, which in plants is responsible for the synthesis of an array of soluble metabolites and the structural cell wall polymer lignin. The latter is one of the major factors currently limiting the economic viability of cellulosic biofuels production, since lignin limits the yield and increases the cost of extracting fermentable sugars from bulk plant biomass, and the quantitative or qualitative manipulation of lignin biosynthesis is the focus of intense research efforts by our group and others. Conversely, a number of soluble phenylpropanoid compounds, which are frequently encountered in the diet, have been shown to impact human physiology, acting as antioxidants and decreasing the incidence of certain types of cancer. Increasing the production of these compounds in food plants could therefore provide significant benefits for human health.