Lab News

This site provides periodic updates of lab activities: publication of papers, awards, graduations etc.

Dr. Curtis presents talk to Undergraduate Research Society

posted Mar 28, 2017, 8:29 AM by Wayne Curtis

Dr. Curtis doles out highlights of undergraduate research over the past 25+ years, particularly related to algae biofuels and plant propagation, as well as his overall philosophy to research. Teaching has been a linchpin of Dr. Curtis' research career, noting that Dr. Curtis hosted the National Science Foundation's (NSF) first ever Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), which is now a national program. The value of undergraduate research is that it inherently allows higher risk projects since success and/or completion of a project is not required for an undergraduates' graduation. 

Check out the slides to get a glimpse into CurtisLab. 

Study Break - Geek Snowman

posted Feb 8, 2017, 7:00 AM by Wayne Curtis   [ updated Feb 8, 2017, 8:35 AM ]

During last weeks snow ... Dr. Curtis took a break with his daughter Jennifer to make a 'scientist snowman' on the quad in PSU Eastview Dorms.  Complete with PPE including a tie-dye lab coat and ice-bucket hat.

Happy Thanksgiving (Eat Yams!) and Welcome Baby Erbakan!!!

posted Nov 30, 2016, 8:25 PM by April Hile

This Thanksgiving (and Turkish Teacher's Day!) welcomed Mustafa Erbakan's (PhD '14) and his wife, Jackie's son, Ali Aydin "Aidan" Erbakan! Now the only question is... who has more hair?! (I think we all know the answer.) ;)
P.S. Speaking of Thanskgiving... do you know the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?!?! Yams are what we research!! Check out our open-source Github website,  

DARPA Insect Allies Proposers' Day: the Men who Stare at...

posted Nov 30, 2016, 8:11 PM by April Hile

...plants?!? (Catch the reference?)

Dr. Curtis attends DARPA's Biotechnologies Office Insect Allies Proposers Day in Washington D.C. on November 18th, 2016. The goal of Insect Allies is to develop a vector-mediated mofification technology for mature plants to rapidly counter environmental and biological threats to crops. Beyond Dr. Curtis' long history in applied plant biotechnology and relevant consulting (e.g. consulting/collaborations for/with Monsanto, Agracetus, Weyerhauser, DOW Agrosciences, Nunhems), the project nicely ties into a number of CurtisLab projects on transient expression as well as some (yet) unpublished preliminary undergraduate research by Ben Woolston (now finishing PhD at MIT) and Amalie Tuerk (PhD '16, University of Delaware). 

Surprisingly, the conference revealed a BAA do in January... one guess how Dr. Curtis will be spending his holiday?

CurtisLab takes 1st & 3rd at AIChE National Poster Competition!

posted Nov 30, 2016, 7:01 PM by April Hile   [ updated Dec 8, 2016, 7:49 AM by Wayne Curtis ]

At the 2016 National AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) Conference held in San Francisco, both CurtisLab undergraduate student posters placed in their division at the National level! 

Penn State AIChE, to which Dr. Curtis also serves as the Chapter Advisor, also had an impressive showing! 
Left to Right: Lucas Nugent (3rd place), Adam Uliana (2nd place), & Ryan Jones (1st place)

Read all about it! PSU e-newsletter highlights CurtisLab NSF/Gates project

posted Nov 30, 2016, 6:10 PM by April Hile   [ updated Nov 30, 2016, 6:32 PM ]

Penn State Engineering e-Newsletter showcases CurtisLab NSF BREAD/Gates Foundation African Food Security project here

Sarah Jean Johnson joins CurtisLab for wastewater treatment project!

posted Nov 30, 2016, 5:57 PM by April Hile

After a stint at Cargill following graduation with her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from South Dakota School of Mines, Sarah Jean Johnson joined Penn State's PhD program and subsequently CurtisLab this fall to work on a collaborative project with Penn State Professor Emeritus Jack McWhirter, who also generously donated $20+M to support the Chemical Engineering Department's Graduate Program, and his company, Mixing & Mass Transfer Technologies (M2T Tech). The project will apply Chemical Engineering principles to wastewater treatment, where her focus will be on pilot-scale demonstration of a novel sludge pasteurization process scheme that is more economical and sustainable, particularly for small to mid-size wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). 

CurtisLab: represent! Energy Days & Material Research Day Conferences!

posted Nov 30, 2016, 5:42 PM by April Hile

Penn State hosts a series of conferences with free (or minimal) enrollment for undergraduate research participants including two in which CurtisLab has participated in recent months: Penn State Energy Days 2016 and Research Penn State 2016--Materials Day Reinvented. 

Penn State's new initiative to become "The Energy University" leverages its 
long history at the epicenter of energy (e.g. coal mining, Marcellus shale, Petroleum Research Laboratory) to pave the way forward with advances in alternative fuels and sustainability for greater energy security. To that end, Penn State Institute for the Energy & Environment (PSIEE) hosted its first first annual Penn State Energy Days conference on May 19th & 20th, 2016, where Krishnan Sreenivas presented his poster, "Phyco-Remediation of Heavy Metal Contaminant from Industrial Effluents using Genetically-Enhanced Microalgae" (see below). The conference provided tours of numerous Penn State facilities, hosted a broad expanse of research disciplines (e.g. social sciences, agriculture, engineering), and attracted a high ratio of industrial partners to promote industry-university collaborations to tackle current global energy security problems. Penn State Energy Days 2017 will be hosted on May 22nd & 23rd at Innovation Park.

Materials Day reinvented itself to a broader scope as Research Penn State 2016 this October 5th & 6th. Attracting industrial partners from all over the world, this Research Day conference also introduced guests to the following research institutes, which boast facilities available for external use:
  • Materials Research Institute
  • Huck Institute of Life Science (i.e. Shared Fermentation Facility which Dr. Curtis started/operated as a new faculty member)
  • Institute for CyberScience
  • Institute of Energy & the Environment
  • Social Science Research Insitute
At the conference's poster session, Erica Lennox represented Dr. Curtis in his absence, highlighting his 28 years of research in bioreactor design in her poster entitled "₵heap = $mart (Not Disposable)", culminating in CurtisLab's latest bioreactor: a low-cost Hydrostatically-Driven Temporary Immersion Bioreactor (Hy-TIB) for enhanced plant propagation of African orphan crops toward food and economic security in Africa.

YouTube Video

Dr. Curtis heads out on Sabbatical at Pacific Northwest National Lab!

posted Nov 30, 2016, 2:57 PM by April Hile   [ updated Nov 30, 2016, 4:36 PM ]

Hardly the 'type' for rest-and-relaxation (unless it's on a montain in the middle of a 'Noreaster of course!), Dr. Curtis headed out to Washington State, just outside of the Hanford Nuclear Waste Site to begin his 9-month sabbatical appointment on September 29th, 2016 at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to consult on its Metabolic and Spatial Interactions in Communities (MOSAIC) program. Dr. Curtis brings his unique and applied perspective to PNNL, which has been at the frontier of fundamental science and engineering for decades. Its adjacent user facility, Environmental and Molecular Sciences Laboratory, boasts absolutely state-of-the-art equipment for ground-breaking research. 

His lab at Penn State will continue its research with remote/ bicoastal supervision and surely provide synergistic opportunities for research.

Tina Lai defends her Plant Biology Masters Thesis!

posted Nov 30, 2016, 2:32 PM by April Hile

On September 27th, 2016, Tina Lai, a Plant Biology Masters student, defended her thesis entitled "Testing the Effect of Phytocyannin-Like-1 Protein Domain in the Theobroma cacao tissue culture somatic embryogenesis system" to committee members Dr. Claude DePamphilis & Tim McNellis. Her work shows promise in widespread plant biotechnology and agricultural applications. 

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