University of Georgia

Doctoral candidate awarded Department of Energy fellowship

National Renewable Energy Laboratory
(Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

University of Georgia doctoral candidate Jordan Russell was awarded a fellowship by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program. The program prepares graduate students for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) careers critically important to the Department of Energy Office of Science mission by providing graduate thesis research opportunities at DOE laboratories in areas that address scientific challenges central to the Office of Science mission.

Jordan Russell
Jordan Russell

Russell is one of 47 new SCGSR awardees, announced September 14, from 36 different universities across the nation. Russell, a Ph.D. candidate in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of microbiology, will conduct research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the SCGSR Priority Research Area of Biological and Environmental Research – Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.

A graduate student of genetics professor Janet Westpheling, Russell will spend six months at NREL in Golden, Colorado working with physicist and structural biologist Yannick Bomble, beginning November 1. Russell’s thesis focuses on the enzyme Cellulase A, which plays an integral role in the degradation of plant biomass, using a genetic approach to understand both the structure and function of the complicated enzyme in the service of developing more efficient conversion processes of plant biomass into fuels and other products.

With colleagues at NREL, Russell will work to develop structural insights and design principles for engineering more efficient biomass degradation enzymes, as well as receive new training in structural biology, modeling dynamics and enzyme mechanism.

“I feel very lucky for the opportunity to work with Dr. Bomble and his group. His expertise in structural biology and enzymology as well as the resources available at NREL will provide an exciting new dimension to my thesis work,” said Russell, who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology at UGA in 2012.

“I’m so grateful to the department of microbiology and especially to my extremely supportive advisor, Dr. Jan Westpheling, for putting me in the position to receive an honor like the SCGSR award. I started graduate school with the hopes of getting involved in biotechnology and using microbes to make a positive environmental impact, so my work in Dr. Westpheling’s lab has been very gratifying and the opportunity to do state-of-the-art enzyme engineering with Dr. Bomble is quite exciting.”

A complete list of awardees is available at–Public-Announcement.pdf.