Dr. Calvin Henard Introduces Bacterial Focus to UNT's BioDiscovery Institute | College of Science
November 4, 2019

Dr. Calvin Henard Introduces Bacterial Focus to UNT's BioDiscovery Institute

Dr. Calvin Henard recently joined the Department of Biological Sciences and the BioDiscovery Institute, where his lab in the Science Research Building leverages advanced molecular and synthetic biology to develop biotechnologies for the conversion of C1 substrates to fuels and chemicals using methanotrophic bacteria. He is very passionate about microbiology and its role and influence on our everyday lives.

"My laboratory is fascinated with methanotrophic bacteria," said Dr. Henard. "These bacteria utilize methane and carbon dioxide, the two most abundant greenhouse gases, to grow. These bacteria are found in soil and water across the planet; thus, they play a crucial role in regulating the Earth's carbon cycle much like plants."

The bacteria can also be utilized in biotechnology to convert anaerobic digestion-derived biogas and/or natural gas to valuable products due to their capacity to utilize methane. The goal of Dr. Henard's lab is to gain insight into the metabolism of these unique microbes to enable the development of biotechnologies that can leverage an underutilized, abundant substrate for bioconversion processes while simultaneously mitigating greenhouse gases.

There aren't yet many advanced microbiology courses offered in the Department of Biological Science, but Dr. Henard is excited to change that. He is working to develop a microbial ecology course that will appeal to both undergraduate biology and environmental science majors. To date, the BioDiscovery Institute has primarily focused on plant-based research, so he looking forward to collaborations involving his laboratory's focus on microbial biocatalysis and expanding BDI's expertise while keeping within the overall mission of the institute.

"I hope that my enthusiasm for microbes, or "bugs", is infectious in my courses, pun definitely intended," Dr. Henard quipped.

Dr. Henard chose to pursue a career at UNT for a few reasons. After working in the government sector for the last five years he decided that rejoining the world of academia would fulfill his passion for training future scientists. Because his research is focused on the development of sustainable biotechnologies for the production of bio-based fuels, chemicals, and food, UNT's BioDiscovery Institute felt like a perfect fit. And of course, as a native Texan, originally from Weatherford, he feels fortunate that his education and professional trajectory could ultimately allow him to be closer to his family by calling Denton home.

Find out more about Dr. Henard's laboratory and the research happening at the Biodiscovery Institute at http://bdi.unt.edu/

Dr. Calvin A. Henard received a B.S. in Molecular Biology from Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado where he studied the role of the nutrient starvation stringent response in Salmonella's ability to co-opt and subvert host immune responses. Following his doctoral studies, Dr. Henard was an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein postdoctoral trainee at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas where he evaluated virulence mechanisms of the intracellular protozoan parasite Leishmania. In 2014, Dr. Henard joined the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's National Bioenergy Center as a postdoctoral researcher, where he was promoted to a full-time staff researcher in the applied biology group in 2016. At NREL, Dr. Henard used his expertise in molecular microbiology and metabolic engineering to develop algal, yeast, and bacterial biocatalysts for conversion of renewable substrates to biofuels and bioproducts.