My lab works concurrently on two aspects of membrane biochemistry related to photosynthesis: Chloroplast protein import and Applied photosynthesis.
Chloroplast protein import: I have a long-standing interest in on the biogenesis of organelles and in particular the family of organelles specific to plants, known as plastids. This family includes a divers set of organelles that perform an extensive set of biochemical reactions including the process of photosynthesis, which takes place in chloroplasts. This diverse metabolic activity is the enabled via the import of several thousand nuclear encoded proteins from the cytosol. This targeting and import process is critical to many if not most of the key metabolic processes associated with plants. We are specifically interested in how chloroplast destined precursors are targeted, recognized and translocated into the plastid via two translocons, TIC and TOC, that are found in the chloroplast inner and outer envelope membranes, respectively. This process is mediated by selective recognition of the transit peptide by one or more of the TOC components. We are working to explain the biochemistry and biophysics of how these proteins are translocated across the plastid membranes.
Applied photosynthesis: A second area of research is how we may exploit the ultra efficient process of solar energy capture and conversion of natural photosynthesis into hybrid devices that will provide either direct photovoltaic electricity or be stored in some form of fuel such as molecular hydrogen. To date we have help design build and characterize novel: 1) luminescent solar concentrators, 2) hybrid Bio-organic thin-film photovoltaic devices, 3) hydride bio-inorganic photovoltaic devices, and 4) bio-Pt hydrogen evolving nanoparticles.