ASU Engineering | Nielsen Lab


Who we are

We are a team of engineers and scientists focused on developing novel biotechnologies for efficiently converting renewable feedstocks into a variety of sustainable fuel and chemical products.  We work at the interface of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, while also incorporating key elements of industrial and applied microbiology, and use these skills to ‘re-program’ and study microorganisms that carry out various functions of interest. Current applications include engineering novel biosynthetic pathways, expanding catabolic range and capacity, improving strain robustness, and enhancing other traits of industrial importance, among others.  Learn more…


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Complex problems require multi-disciplinary solutions.  Thus, for us and the scientific community as a whole to continue to gain new and meaningful fundamental insights that will ultimately help to address the Grand Challenges facing today’s society, it is critical that unique and fresh perspectives are both encouraged and enthusiastically embraced.  To this end, our group continues to provide a safe and inclusive environment where all are welcome, regardless of culture, ethnicity, race, sex, gender identity, nation of origin, age, education, languages spoken, veteran’s status, color, religion, disability, sexual orientation and/or beliefs.  Science belongs to all of us, and our discoveries are better and stronger when achieved together.


Research Areas


Novel pathway engineeringpathwaymap

Strain optimization

Product tolerance

Adaptive laboratory evolution



New strain engineering toolssynbio


Dynamic control

Synthetic microbial communities



Integrated bioreactorsFigure 1 - Overview

Product separation


Process modeling and optimization


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Recent News & Announcements

New DOE Cyanobacteria Project

Working with collaborators at CSU and NanoGas Technologies, our ASU team is leading a recently awarded project from the DOE, focussed on enhancing the efficiency for carbon utilization in biofuel-producing cyanobacteria cultures.  Learn more...


  Had a great time presenting some of the group's work at the '2018 Biocatalysis, Bioconversion and Green Manufacturing US-China bilateral Symposium' in Beijing, hosted by the Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT). The hosts were wonderful and the...

SEED 2018

Chris and Michael are presenting their work this week at SEED 2018, being held just up the road in Scottsdale, AZ! Read more about the conference and SynBio research at ASU in the following article:...


Our group and DOE project team were well-represented at the 27th Western Photosynthesis Conference (WPC2018), held at Biosphere 2 just south of us in Oracle, Arizona from Jan. 4-7, 2018.  Chris Jones and his work were recognized as runner-up in the postdoc category of...

Metabolic Engineering Summit

Andrew Flores travelled all the way to Beijing, China to present his work on co-culture engineering (a collaboration with Prof. Xuan Wang, ASU) at the 2017 Metabolic Engineering Summit!  This conference series is sponsored by the International Metabolic Engineering...

AIChE 2017

We were in Minneapolis last week for AIChE, trying to stay warm and presenting the work of Brian and Kyle.  It was also a great chance to catch up with friends from all over, including the Prather Group (MIT)!  Until next...

Presenting research at SIMB Annual Meeting

Several of our projects were presented as posters at the 2017 SIMB Annual Meeting in Denver, CO.  Andrew Flores and Gavin Kurgan (from Xuan Wang's group) presented results from our collaborative projects, and Brian Thompson's work on muconic acid was presented as...

Newly Minted Ph.D.s!

A huge congrats to Drs. Thompson and Staggs, our two most recent Ph.D. grads, both of whom successfully defended their respective theses last week!  We wish you luck as you head off to bigger and better things!

New NSF Project Awarded

We are excited to be kicking off a new NSF project entitled 'Biological Auto-Enhancement of CO2 Absorption for Improved Cyanobacterial Growth and Biofuel Production'!   This 3-year grant was awarded through CBET - Energy for Sustainability and the SusChEM programs.

Congrats 2017 CHE Graduates!

Congrats to our undergraduate researchers Chris Gregson, Zeynep Ayla, and Kaleigh Johnson, as well as the rest of the Class of 2017!  Kaleigh received the special honor of being selected as the Outstanding Graduate of the entire Fulton Schools of Engineering.  Grad...

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