BDI Distinguished Lecture Series to Host Dr. Sarah O'Connor | College of Science
January 25, 2024

BDI Distinguished Lecture Series to Host Dr. Sarah O'Connor

The BioDiscovery Institute is proud to announce distinguished speaker Dr. Sarah E. O'Connor in association with Max Planck Institute, will be presenting two talks this spring: Harnessing Natural Product Pathways.

When: Thursday, February 8, 2024 3:30pm and Friday, February 9, 2024 3pm

Where: Lyceum Theater at the University Union

Prof. Dr. Sarah Ellen O'Connor is Director of the Department of Natural Product Biosynthesis at the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany). She obtained her PhD in Organic Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001, and was an ACS Irving Sigal post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Biological Chemistry at Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA) from 2001-2003. From 2003-2011 she was Assistant and Associate Professor of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from 2011-2019 she was a Project Leader and Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at the John Innes Centre, and in 2019 she moved to the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology.

She has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed papers, and is co-inventor of 2 patent applications. She has mentored 13 PhD students and 26 postdocs. Her major research interest is plant biosynthetic pathways, where her group takes a multi-disciplinary approach to discover new genes responsible biosynthesis of complex natural products. Her group also studies the mechanism, engineering and evolution of these biosynthetic enzymes.

Talk Synopsis: Harnessing Natural Product Pathways

Synthetic biology approaches are being used with increasing success to overproduce medicinally and agriculturally important plant-derived molecules in heterologous hosts such as yeast or tobacco. However, to pursue such approaches effectively, we must first fully understand the chemistry and biology of the biosynthetic pathways that generate these molecules. Given the complexity of plants and plant genomics, this pathway discovery process has been a major bottleneck in harnessing the chemical power of plants. Our research aims to develop methods and resources to unlock the biosynthesis of complex molecules produced by plants. We also explore mechanism by which these complex plant pathways have evolved.