UMass Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Institute for Cellular Engineering



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Susan Leschine
Professor, Veterinary & Animal Sciences
Integrated Sciences Building (Office: N212 Morrill IV)
661 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA  01003-9298
(413) 545-0673

Microbial Decomposition of Biomass, Biofilm Formation, and Fuels from Biomass

Investigating the physiology of microbes that ferment plant biomass.  Our research is focused on a novel bacterium, Clostridium phytofermentans, first isolated from forest soil near Massachusetts' Quabbin Reservoir. This bacterium has a voracious appetite for plant biomass, decomposing all fermentable components of biomass, and produces ethanol as the primary product of fermentation.


Research Interest

Potential Application

Using genomics and biochemistry to understand the pathway(s) for ethanol production by C. phytofermentans.

Development of strategies for obtaining strains of C. phytofermentans that exhibit increased ethanol production for cellulosic biofuels applications.

Investigations of enzymes (e.g., glycoside hydrolases) with unusual catalytic properties.

Identification of enzymes for applications in energy, textile, paper manufacturing, and food industries.

Investigations of developmental processes (e.g., biofilm formation, sporulation) in C. phytofermentans.

Suggest cell-engineering strategies for improved process engineering in cellulosic ethanol production.



University of Massachusetts
Institute for Cellular Engineering
686 North Pleasant Street
159 Goessmann Laboratory
Amherst, MA 01003