Jean Zhao is a senior research associate in the JGI’s Synthesis Science User Program, which pioneers functional genomics to solve the most relevant bioenergy and environmental problems. She joined the JGI in 2006, fascinated by the new sequencing technologies being implemented, and moved to the synthesis science program in 2014. Jean is one of the first authors of a recent Nature Microbiology paper and is still motivated by the technologies, the new challenges, and the different groups of people that she gets to work with at JGI.
Elements: What do you do at the JGI?
Jean Zhao: I worked in JGI’s Genomic Technologies group on the validation and optimization of Next-Generation Sequence (NGS) platforms before moving to the Synthetic Biology group under Dr. Yasuo Yoshikuni to work on microbial engineering. The development of the latest NGS technologies made significant contributions to expand JGI’s sequencing capacity. The newly invented CRAGE (chassis-independent recombinase-assisted genome engineering) system led to a new genetic engineering tool that JGI offers to users, which opens the gate to the biomanufacturing of natural products using unconventional microbial hosts.
Elements: Who in Berkeley, at either the main Lab campus or at UC Berkeley, are you already working with, and on what project or projects?
Jean: Our group has strong bonds with UC Berkeley and the Lab. We have collaborated with many PIs on multiple projects. For example: Dr. Adam Deutschbauer for the transposon system used in CRAGE; Dr. Peter Ercius for biomaterial projects; Dr. Kris Niyogi for microalgae metabolism; Dr. Jillian Banfield, Dr. Michelle Chang, Dr. Jay Keasling for natural products (plant antibacterials); Dr. John Dueber and Dr. Steve Singer for metabolic engineering; Dr. Jenny Mortimer and Dr. Aindrila Mukhopadhyay for microbiome engineering.
Elements: What are you looking forward to about being colocated at the main campus?
Jean: The geographical co-location greatly aligns with our needs and interest. It not only results in efficiently shared services but also provides easier access to our colleagues and collaborators which will ultimately benefit our scientific research and the JGI’s success as a whole. I am very excited about our final integration into the main campus and looking forward to exploring new scientific projects with colleagues.