Manuel Rafael Jimenez Diaz Awarded
Manuel Rafael Jimenez Diaz, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has been awarded one of Mexico’s most prestigious fellowships—from the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT).
Jimenez Diaz expects to earn his Ph.D. in May 2015. His primary interests are in bioprocessing, synthetic biology, and bio-energy production.
Mexico’s equivalent of the National Science Foundation, CONACYT provides support for that country’s most promising scientists. After they complete their education, CONACYT fellows are expected to contribute to Mexican society by advancing its scientific and technological development.
The CONACYT fellowship covers tuition and provides a stipend, freeing Jimenez Diaz to focus on his research in synthetic biology.
Jimenez Diaz is a member of the research team led by Assistant Professor Cynthia Collins. She describes him as an “outstanding student,” adding that Jimenez Diaz was actively recruited from the University of Delaware, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.
His research involves microbial consortia—engineering biological communities to produce new chemicals and processes. Although most microorganisms naturally exist in complex communities, research has traditionally focused on manipulating single organisms in isolation. Jimenez Diaz is working on engineering interspecies communication systems that will enable bacteria to send signals to one another and ultimately work together toward a common goal.
“Bacteria have different qualities and capacities,” Jimenez Diaz said. “We’re developing tools that will allow us to coordinate the behavior of the individual microbes so we can take advantage of their different strengths.
“If we can get them to communicate and interact in a controlled, coordinated way, the applications will be significant.”