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Graduate Defense: Cale Thornton

March 1 @ 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Thesis Defense

Thesis Information

Title: From Metabolites To Flux: Understanding Cellular Metabolism

Program: Master of Science in Chemistry

Advisor: Dr. Owen McDougal, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Members: Dr. Lisa Warner, Chemistry and Biochemistry and Dr. Joseph Dumais, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Metabolomics is a fast-emerging field with the first published mention of the metabolome only occurring in 1998. While this field is still in its infancy, numerous applications for the study of metabolomics have been shown, encompassing food science, microbiology, forensics, plant biology, and many others. Research shown here utilizes metabolomic techniques to aid in our understanding of topics ranging from method development, biomass conversion, and also food science. Progressions within method development show the utilization of Pluronic F-127 as a biocompatible hydrogel for cellular suspension for in-cell NMR. This hydrogel keeps bacteria suspended within an NMR tube preventing line broadening while still allowing for metabolism to occur. This hydrogel has the potential to expand the utilization of in-cell NMR experimentation to a wider variety of bacteria. In addition to method development progressions, this research explores the metabolism of Clostridium thermocellum, an anaerobic bacteria used in biomass conversion. Clostridium thermocellum is an efficient degrader of cellulose, converting this plant waste into ethanol, and also has an additional CO2 fixation pathway. This metabolism of CO2 was relatively uncharacterized. In-cell NMR analysis identified major downstream metabolites of CO2 consumption as being lactate and formate. The final aspect of this research is utilizing metabolomic techniques is the comparison of wines prepared traditionally and with pulsed electric field processing. Pulsed electric field processing was found to create the same final wine product as wines prepared traditionally.